February 2019 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips

Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. If desired, we would be pleased to perform the requisite research and provide you with a detailed written analysis. Such an engagement may be the subject of a separate engagement letter that would define the scope and limits of the desired consultation services.

Tax Filing Season Begins

January 28, 2019, marked the start of this year's tax filing season, and it's the first time taxpayers will be filing under the new tax reform laws, most of which became effective in 2018. Complicating matters is a newly revised Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, as well as the partial shutdown of the federal government. With more than 150 million individual tax returns expected to be filed for the 2018 tax year, here's what individual taxpayers can expect:

Government Shutdown; Filing as Usual, Tax Refunds on Schedule

Despite the government shutdown (referred to by the IRS as the lapse in appropriations) in December and January, all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as per the normal time frame. That is, individuals and businesses should continue to file tax returns and make payments and deposits with the IRS, as required by law. For taxpayers receiving tax refunds there are no anticipated delays due to the lapse in appropriations.

New Design for Form 1040

The new Form 1040 has been redesigned for 2018. It is now "postcard sized" and gathers information about the taxpayer(s) and dependents. It's also the form you need to sign and date when filing your return. The new Form 1040 can also be filed by itself; however, more complex tax situations will generally require using one or more of the supplemental Schedules 1 through 6 (also new for 2018), which are briefly described below.
Note: Forms 1040A and 1040EZ no longer exist for tax year 2018. Instead, use the new Form 1040.

Schedules 1 through 6

As mentioned, these supplemental schedules are to be used as needed and are generally for those with more complex tax returns. Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments To Income - Report income or adjustments to income that can't be entered directly on Form 1040. Schedule 2, Tax - To be used if you have additional taxes that can't be entered directly on Form 1040. These include alternative minimum tax and excess advance premium tax credit repayment. Schedule 3, Nonrefundable Credits - Used to report nonrefundable credits other than the child tax credit or the credit for other dependents. Schedule 4, Other Taxes - If you have other taxes that can't be entered on Form 1040 such as additional tax on IRAs or other qualified retirement plans or household employment taxes. Schedule 5, Other Payments and Refundable Credits - If you have other payments or refundable credits such as any estimated tax payments for 2018 or the amount paid when requesting an extension to file. Schedule 6, Foreign Address and Third Party Designee - If you have a foreign address or want to allow another person (other than your paid tax preparer) to discuss this return with the IRS.

Filing Deadline

For most taxpayers the filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019; however, due to the Patriots' Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts, and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.

Help is just a phone call away.

Don't hesitate to contact the office if you have any questions about the new tax forms or need assistance preparing and filing your tax return this year.

Seven Common Small Business Tax Myths

The complexity of the tax code generates a lot of folklore and misinformation that could lead to costly mistakes such as penalties for failing to file on time or, on the flip side, not taking advantage of deductions you are legally entitled to take and giving the IRS more money than you need to. With this in mind, let's take a look at seven common small business tax myths.

1. Start-Up Costs are Deductible Immediately

Business start-up costs refer to expenses incurred before you actually begin operating your business. Business start-up costs include both start-up and organizational costs and vary depending on the type of business. Examples of these types of costs include advertising, travel, surveys, and training. These start-up and organizational costs are generally called capital expenditures. Costs for a particular asset such as machinery or office equipment are recovered through depreciation or Section 179 expensing. When you start a business, you can elect to deduct or amortize certain business start-up costs. Business start-up and organizational costs are generally capital expenditures. However, you can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs. The $5,000 deduction is reduced (but not below zero) by the amount your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Remaining costs must be amortized.

2. Overpaying the IRS makes you "Audit Proof"

It is never a good idea to knowingly or unknowingly overpay the IRS. You should only pay the amount of tax that you owe. The IRS doesn't care if you pay the right amount of taxes or overpay your taxes; however, they do care if you pay less than you owe and you can't substantiate your deductions with good recordkeeping. The best way to "Audit Proof" yourself is to properly document your expenses and make sure you are getting good advice from your tax accountant.

3. You can take more Deductions if your Business is Incorporated.

The good news is that self-employed individuals (sole proprietors and S Corps) qualify for many of the same deductions that incorporated businesses do. As such, becoming incorporated is often an unnecessary expense and burden that many small business owners don’t need. For instance, start-ups can spend thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees to set up a corporation, only to discover soon thereafter that they need to change their name or take the company in a different direction. Furthermore, plenty of small business owners who incorporate don't make money for the first few years and find themselves saddled with minimum corporate tax payments and no income.

4. The Home Office Deduction is a Red Flag for an Audit.

While the home office deduction used to be a red flag, this is no longer true. In fact, with so many people operating home-based businesses the IRS rolled out a new simplified home office deduction in 2013, which makes it even easier to claim the home office deduction (as long as it can be substantiated with excellent recordkeeping). Furthermore, because of the proliferation of home offices, tax officials cannot possibly audit all tax returns of small business owners taking the home office deduction. In other words, there is no need to fear an audit just because you take the home office deduction; however, a high deduction-to-income ratio, however, may raise a red flag and lead to an audit.

5. You can’t Deduct Business Expenses if you don't take the Home Office Deduction.

You are still eligible to take deductions for business supplies, business-related phone bills, travel expenses, printing, wages paid to employees or contract workers, depreciation of equipment used for your business, and other expenses related to running a home-based business, whether or not you take the home office deduction.

6. An Extension to File gives you an extra Six Months to Pay any Tax you Owe.

Extensions enable you to extend your filing date only. Penalties and interest begin accruing from the date your taxes are due.

7. Part-time Business Owners Cannot Set up Self-employed Pension Plans.

If you start a company while you have a salaried position complete with a 401K plan, you can still set up a SEP-IRA for your business and take the deduction. If you have any questions about these and other tax myths, don't hesitate to call and speak to a tax professional.

Avoiding the Penalty on Early Distributions

Many people use IRAs, SEP Plans, SIMPLE IRA plans, and employee-sponsored retirement savings plans such as the 401(k) to save money for their retirement years, but what if you need to tap that money before age 59 1/2? The bad news is that you generally have to pay a 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal of your funds. While that may seem unfair (after all, most of it is probably your money), you need to remember that the purpose of these types of plans is to save money for the years when you are no longer working. Sometimes, however, life intervenes, and there may be times when you need access to those funds before you've reached retirement age. The good news is that under IRS rules you may be able to use one of the following exceptions to avoid paying the tax penalty. However, you need to remember that although the exceptions listed below will help you avoid the 10 percent penalty tax, you are still liable for any regular income tax that's owed on the funds that you've withdrawn. 1. Death of the Participant/IRA Owner. If you are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner, you do not have to pay the 10 percent penalty on distributions taken before age 59 1/2 unless you inherit a traditional IRA from your deceased spouse and elect to treat it as your own. In this case, any distribution you later receive before you reach age 59 1/2 may be subject to the 10 percent additional tax. 2. Total and Permanent Disability. Distributions made because you are totally and permanently disabled are exempt from the early withdrawal penalty. You are considered disabled if you can furnish proof that you cannot do any substantial gainful activity because of your physical or mental condition. A physician must determine that your condition can be expected to result in death or to be of long, continued, and indefinite duration. 3. Higher Education Expenses. Distributions from IRAs, SEP Plans, and SIMPLE IRA Plans that are used for qualified higher education expenses are also exempt, provided they are not paid through tax-free distributions from a Coverdell education savings account, scholarships and fellowships, Pell grants, employer-provided educational assistance, and Veterans' educational assistance. Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance of a student at an eligible educational institution, as well as expenses incurred by special needs students in connection with their enrollment or attendance. If the individual is at least a half-time student, then room and board are considered qualified higher education expenses. This exception applies to expenses incurred by you, your spouse, children and grandchildren.
Caution: Early distributions from employee-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s are not exempt from the 10 percent penalty if used for higher education expenses.
4. IRS Levy. Distributions due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan are exempt from the 10 percent penalty. 5. Healthcare Premiums. Even if you are under age 59 1/2, you may not have to pay the 10 percent additional tax on any distributions during the year that are not more than the amount you paid during the year for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You will not have to pay the tax on these amounts if all of the following conditions apply: you lost your job, you received unemployment compensation paid under any federal or state law for 12 consecutive weeks because you lost your job, you receive the distributions during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following year, you receive the distributions no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.
Caution: Early distributions from employee-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s are not exempt from the 10 percent penalty if used for healthcare premiums.
6. Military Reservists called to Active Duty. Generally, these are distributions made to individuals called to active duty after September 11, 2001, and on or after December 31, 2007. 7. Equal Payments. Similar to an annuity, you can take the money as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your estimated lifespan or the joint lives of you and your designated beneficiary. These payments must be made at least annually, and payments are based on IRS life expectancy tables. If payments are from a qualified employee plan, they must begin after you have left the job. The payments must be made at least once each year until age 59 1/2, or for five years, whichever period is longer. 8. Medical Expenses. If you have out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can withdraw funds from a retirement account to pay those expenses without paying the penalty. For example, if you had an adjusted gross income of $100,000 for tax year 2019 and medical expenses of $12,500, you could withdraw as much as $2,500 from your pension or IRA without incurring the 10 percent penalty tax. 9. First-time Homebuyers (up to $10,000). An IRA distribution used to buy, build, or rebuild a first home also escapes the penalty; however, you need to understand the government's definition of a "first time" home buyer. In this case, it's defined as someone who hasn't owned a home for the last two years prior to the date of the new acquisition. You could have owned five prior houses, but if you haven't owned one in at least two years, you qualify. The first time homeowner can be yourself, your spouse, your or your spouse's child or grandchild, parent or another ancestor. The "date of acquisition" is the day you sign the contract for the purchase of an existing house or the day construction of your new principal residence begins. The amount withdrawn for the purchase of a home must be used within 120 days of withdrawal and the maximum lifetime withdrawal exemption is $10,000. If both you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, each of you can receive distributions up to $10,000 for a first home without having to pay the 10 percent penalty.
Caution: First-time homebuyers are not exempt from the 10 percent penalty for early withdrawals of funds from employee-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s.
If you are thinking about tapping your retirement money early, call and speak to a trusted tax advisor first.

Who Should File a 2018 Tax Return?

Most people file a tax return because they have to, but even if you don't, there are times when you should--because you might be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. The six tax tips below should help you determine whether you're one of them. 1. General Filing Rules. Whether you need to file a tax return this year depends on several factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status, and your age determine whether you must file a tax return. For example, if you're single and 27 years old you must file if your income, was at least $12,000 ($24,000 if you are married filing a joint return). If you're self-employed or if you're a dependent of another person, other tax rules may apply. 2. Premium Tax Credit. If you purchased coverage from the Marketplace in 2018 you might be eligible for the Premium Tax Credit if you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during the year; however, you must file a federal tax return and reconcile any advance payments with the allowable premium tax credit. 3. Tax Withheld or Paid. Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year's tax? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be due a refund, but you have to file a tax return to receive the refund. 4. Earned Income Tax Credit. Did you work and earn less than $54,884 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,431. If you qualify, file a tax return to claim it. 5. Additional Child Tax Credit. Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don't get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit and receive a refund even if you do not owe any tax. 6. American Opportunity Credit. The AOTC (up to $2,500 per eligible student) is available for four years of post-secondary education. You or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period. Even if you don't owe any taxes, you still may qualify; however, you must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim the credit. If you have any questions about whether you should file a return, please contact the office.

Five Facts about the Opportunity Zone Tax Incentive

Providing tax benefits to investors who invest eligible capital into distressed communities throughout the U.S. and its possessions, Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) were created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development and job creation. If you're considering investing in a QOZ, here are five facts you should know: 1. Defer Tax on Capital Gains. Taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains by making an appropriate investment in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) and meeting other requirements. 2. Partnerships. In the case of an eligible capital gain realized by a partnership, the rules allow either a partnership or its partners to elect deferral. Similar rules apply to other pass-through entities, such as S corporations and its shareholders, as well as estates and trusts and its beneficiaries. 3. Qualifying for the Deferral. To qualify for the deferral, investors must meet the following criteria:
  • Capital gains must be invested in a QOF within 180 days.
  • Taxpayer elects deferral on Form 8949 and files with its tax return.
  • Investment in the QOF must be an equity interest, not a debt interest.
4. Investment held 5 to 7 years. If a taxpayer holds its QOF investment at least five years, the taxpayer may exclude 10 percent of the original deferred gain. If a taxpayer holds its QOF investment for at least seven years, the taxpayer may exclude an additional five percent of the original deferred gain for a total exclusion of 15 percent of the original deferred gain. The original deferred gain – less the amount excluded due to the five and seven year holding periods – is recognized on the earlier of sale or exchange of the investment, or December 31, 2026. 5. Investment held 10 years. If the taxpayer holds the investment in the QOF for at least 10 years, the taxpayer may elect to increase its basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged. This may eliminate all or a substantial amount of gain due to appreciation on the QOF investment. To view the current list of designated Qualified Opportunity Zones navigate to the Opportunity Zones Resources page at the Department of Treasury's www.cdfifund.gov. Questions about the Opportunity Zone Tax Incentive? Don't hesitate to call.

Penalty Relief for Witholding, Estimated Tax Shortfalls

The estimated tax penalty has been waived for many taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year; however, there is a catch: the penalty is only waived for taxpayers who paid at least 85 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. Typically, a taxpayer must pay 90 percent to avoid a penalty. The waiver computation will be reflected in a revised Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts, and instructions. This penalty relief is designed to help taxpayers who were unable to properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the far-reaching tax reform law enacted in December 2017. Although most 2018 tax filers are still expected to get refunds, some taxpayers will unexpectedly owe additional tax when they file their returns. The updated federal tax withholding tables, released in early 2018, largely reflected the lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction brought about by the new law. This generally meant taxpayers had less tax withheld in 2018 and saw more in their paychecks. However, the updated withholding tables were not able to fully factor in other changes, such as the suspension of dependency exemptions and reduced itemized deductions. As a result, some taxpayers could have paid too little tax during the year, if they did not submit a properly-revised W-4 withholding form to their employer or increase their estimated tax payments; i.e., a "Paycheck Checkup" to avoid a situation where they had too much or too little tax withheld when they file their tax returns. Please call the office if you need assistance updating your withholding this year to make sure you are having the correct amount of tax withheld for 2019.

Applying Finance Charges in QuickBooks

There are myriad ways to bring in customer payments faster and improve your cash flow. You can:
  • Get a merchant account and let customers pay you electronically
  • Offer a discount for early payments
  • Shorten the payment due cycle (21 days instead of 30 days, for example)
  • Be more aggressive about collections
QuickBooks can help you take all of these steps. It also offers a fifth option: assessing finance charges for tardy remittances. Maybe you don't want to do this because it seems like a less-than-friendly way to treat customers – especially valued ones. But you're not in the business of lending money, which is what you're doing when you continue to let your accounts receivable slide. So, here's how to do add finance charges to your payment policies.

Multiple Issues Involved

Before you can start adding finance charges to tardy payments, you will need to let QuickBooks know how you want them handled. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click the Finance Charge tab in the left vertical pane, then the Company Preferences tab in the window that opens. You will see something like this: Figure 1: You will need to decide on your QuickBooks Finance Chargesettings before you can begin to apply these late fees.  What Annual Interest Rate will you charge? Will there be a Minimum Finance Charge? Do you want to offer a Grace Period? If you've never worked with finance charges before, you might be at a loss as to how you should answer these questions. If so, don't hesitate to call a QuickBooks pro in the office who can help you make sure you're selecting the correct Finance Charge Account. In this example, QuickBooks defaulted to 70100 – Other Income, which may be the best option for you. The next question may require some research. Some jurisdictions don't allow you to Assess finance charges on overdue finance charges; you'll need to find out if this is the case. If there's any doubt, make sure that the box in front of that option isn't checked. QuickBooks also needs to know on what date it should start calculating finance charges: on the due date or invoice/billed date. Finally, check the box in front of Mark finance charge invoices "To be printed." QuickBooks doesn't include finance charges on invoices themselves; it bills them on separate invoices. Check this box if you want the software to print all of them as a batch. When you're done here, click OK.

Applying the Charges

Figure 2: By selecting an Assessment Date, you are telling QuickBooks how many late days should be included in its finance charge calculations. When you are ready, open the Customers menu and select Assess Finance Charges. A window like the one in the image above will open. QuickBooks, of course, performs all of the required calculations in the background. But it must first know what specific date you plan to actually assess the charges so that it can determine the number of late days that should be included. This may not be the current date, so be sure the Assessment Date is correct before proceeding. All you have to do here is make sure there's a checkmark in front of every finance charge that should be invoiced (the check marks should already be there, but you should verify this). If you send statements, clear the box in front of Mark Invoices "To be printed. " The finance charges will appear on the next statement. When you are satisfied, click Assess Charges.

Dispatching the Charges

Your finance charges have now been recorded in QuickBooks as individual invoices. When it's time to print, open the File menu and select Print Forms | Invoices. You will see your numbered finance charge invoices displayed like this: Figure 3: You can see your finance charge invoices when you go to print them. Of course, if you email invoices, you would click on File | Send Forms. It is a good idea to notify your customers before you start assessing finance charges. This will give them a chance to catch up, and no one will be surprised to see the extra invoices. QuickBooks does the heavy lifting as far as calculations are concerned, but it is important that you set your finance charges up correctly. Customers will be annoyed by mistakes, and it is much easier to get this tool set up right from the start than to have to go in and untangle errors. If you plan to start assessing finance charges but aren't sure how to proceed, please call the office for assistance.

Tax Due Dates for February 2019

February 11

Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time. Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. This tax due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2018 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

February 15

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January. All businesses. Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2018. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. This due date applies only to payments reported on Form 1099-B, Form 1099-S, and substitute payments reported in Box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in Box 14, respectively. Individuals - If you claimed exemption from income tax witholding last year on the Form W-4 you gave your employer, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year.

February 16

Employers - Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2018, but did not give you a new Form W-4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 28

Businesses - File information returns (for example, certain Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2018. However, Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation must be filed by January 31. There are different forms for different types of payments. Use a separate Form 1096 to summarize and transmit the forms for each type of payment. See the General Instructions for Certain Information Returns for information on what payments are covered, how much the payment must be before a return is required, what form to use, and extensions of time to file. If you file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099 (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation), 3921, 3922 or W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 1. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains January 31. Payers of Gambling Winnings - File Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2G you issued for 2018. If you file Forms W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 1. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains January 31. Large Food and Beverage Establishment Employers - with employees who work for tips. File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027-T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 2. Health Coverage Reporting - If you are an Applicable Large Employer, file paper Forms 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, file paper Forms 1094-B, Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-B with the IRS. If you are filing any of these forms with the IRS electronically, your due date for filing them will be extended to April 1.

March 1

Farmers and Fishermen - File your 2018 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due. However, you have until April 15 (April 17 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts) to file if you paid your 2018 estimated tax by January 15, 2019. Copyright © 2019   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

January 2019 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Important Tax Changes for Individuals and Businesses

Every year, it's a sure bet that there will be changes to current tax law and this year is no different, now that the tax provisions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) are in full effect. From standard deductions to health savings accounts and tax rate schedules, here's a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.

Individuals

In 2019, a number of tax provisions are affected by inflation adjustments, including Health Savings Accounts, retirement contribution limits, and the foreign earned income exclusion. The tax rate structure, which ranges from 10 to 37 percent, remains similar to 2018; however, the tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. Standard deductions also rise. As a reminder, personal exemptions have been eliminated through tax year 2025. Standard Deduction In 2019, the standard deduction increases to $12,200 for individuals (up from $12,000 in 2018) and to $24,400 for married couples (up from $24,000 in 2018). Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) In 2019, AMT exemption amounts increase to $71,700 for individuals (up from $70,300 in 2018) and $111,700 for married couples filing jointly (up from $109,400 in 2018). Also, the phaseout threshold increases to $510,300 ($1,020,600 for married filing jointly). Both the exemption and threshold amounts are indexed annually for inflation. "Kiddie Tax"  For taxable years beginning in 2019, the amount that can be used to reduce the net unearned income reported on the child's return that is subject to the "kiddie tax," is $1,100. The same $1,100 amount is used to determine whether a parent may elect to include a child's gross income in the parent's gross income and to calculate the "kiddie tax." For example, one of the requirements for the parental election is that a child's gross income for 2019 must be more than $1,100 but less than $11,000. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) Contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. Medical expenses must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return. A qualified individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care. For calendar year 2019, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage (same as 2018) or $2,700 for family coverage (same as 2018) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,750 for self-only coverage and $13,500 for family coverage. Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) There are two types of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs): the Archer MSA created to help self-employed individuals and employees of certain small employers, and the Medicare Advantage MSA, which is also an Archer MSA, and is designated by Medicare to be used solely to pay the qualified medical expenses of the account holder. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage MSA, you must be enrolled in Medicare. Both MSAs require that you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).
Self-only coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2019, the term "high deductible health plan" means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,350 and not more than $3,500, and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,650.Family coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2019, the term "high deductible health plan" means, for family coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $4,650 and not more than $7,000, and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $8,550.
No Penalty for not Maintaining Minimum Essential Health Coverage Starting in 2019, there is no penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage. AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses n 2019, the deduction threshold for deductible medical expenses is 10 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). Eligible Long-Term Care Premiums Premiums for long-term care are treated the same as health care premiums and are deductible on your taxes subject to certain limitations. For individuals age 40 or younger at the end of 2019, the limitation is $420. Persons more than 40 but not more than 50 can deduct $790. Those more than 50 but not more than 60 can deduct $1,580 while individuals more than 60 but not more than 70 can deduct $4,220. The maximum deduction is $5,270 and applies to anyone more than 70 years of age. Medicare Taxes  The additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals ($250,000 married filing jointly) remains in effect for 2019, as does the Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on investment (unearned) income for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (AGI) more than $200,000 ($250,000 joint filers). Investment income includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, gains from the disposition of property, and certain passive activity income. Estates, trusts, and self-employed individuals are all liable for the tax. Foreign Earned Income Exclusion For 2019, the foreign earned income exclusion amount is $105,900, up from $103,900 in 2018. Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends In 2019 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2018 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however threshold amounts have increased: the maximum zero percent rate amounts are $39,375 for individuals and $78,750 for married filing jointly. For an individual taxpayer whose income is at or above $434,550 ($488,850 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent. All other taxpayers fall into the 15 percent rate amount (i.e., above $39,375 and below $434,550 for single filers). Estate and Gift Taxes  For an estate of any decedent during calendar year 2019, the basic exclusion amount is $11.4 million, indexed for inflation (up from $11.18 million in 2018). The maximum tax rate remains at 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts remains at $15,000.

Individuals - Tax Credits

Adoption Credit In 2019, a non-refundable (only those individuals with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $14,080 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child. Earned Income Tax Credit For tax year 2019, the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families rises to $6,557, up from $6,431 in 2018. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children. Child Tax Credit For tax years 2018 through 2025, the child tax credit is $2,000 per child. The refundable portion of the credit is $1,400 so that even if taxpayers do not owe any tax, they can still claim the credit. A $500 nonrefundable credit is also available for dependents who do not qualify for the Child Tax Credit (e.g., dependents age 17 and older). Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit also remained under tax reform. If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses in 2019. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income. This tax credit is nonrefundable.

Individuals - Education

American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credits The maximum credit is $2,500 per student for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit remains at $2,000 per return; however, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $116,000 ($58,000 single filers). Interest on Educational Loans In 2019, the maximum deduction for interest paid on student loans is $2,500. The deduction begins to be phased out for higher-income taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of more than $70,000 ($140,000 for joint filers) and is completely eliminated for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of $85,000 ($170,000 joint filers).

Individuals - Retirement

Contribution Limits  The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan increases to $19,000. Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans increase to $13,000 (up from $12,500 in 2018). The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $280,000 (up from $275,000 in 2018). Income Phase-out Ranges The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have modified AGI between $64,000 and $74,000. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range increases to $103,000 to $123,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's modified AGI is between $193,000 and $203,000. The modified AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $122,000 to $137,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $120,000 to $135,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $193,000 to $203,000, up from $189,000 to $199,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000. Saver's Credit In 2019, the AGI limit for the Saver's Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit) for low and moderate income workers is $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $63,000 in 2018; $48,000 for heads of household, up from $47,250; and $32,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $31,500 in 2018.

Businesses

Standard Mileage Rates In 2019, the rate for business miles driven is 58 cents per mile, up from 54.5 cents per mile in 2018. Section 179 Expensing  In 2019, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1,020,000 of the first $2,550,000 of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. This amount is indexed to inflation for tax years after 2018. The deduction was enhanced under the TCJA to include improvements to nonresidential qualified real property such as roofs, fire protection, and alarm systems and security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. Also of note is that costs associated with the purchase of any sport utility vehicle, treated as a Section 179 expense, cannot exceed $25,500. Bonus Depreciation Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, 20% in 2026, and 0% in 2027 and years beyond. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Extended through 2019, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit has been modified and enhanced for employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. Qualified Business Income Deduction Eligible taxpayers are able to deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from qualified domestic businesses, as well as certain dividends. To qualify for the deduction business income must not exceed a certain dollar amount. In 2019, these threshold amounts are $160,700 for single and head of household filers and $321,400 for married taxpayers filing joint returns. Research & Development Tax Credit Starting in 2018, businesses with less than $50 million in gross receipts are able to use this credit to offset alternative minimum tax. Certain start-up businesses that might not have any income tax liability will be able to offset payroll taxes with the credit as well. Employee Health Insurance Expenses For taxable years beginning in 2019, the dollar amount of average wages is $27,100 ($26,600 in 2018). This amount is used for limiting the small employer health insurance credit and for determining who is an eligible small employer for purposes of the credit. Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses The deduction remains at 50% for taxpayers who incur food and beverage expenses associated with operating a trade or business. For tax years 2018 through 2025, however, the 50% deduction expands to include expenses incurred for meals furnished to employees for the convenience of the employer. Amounts after 2025, however, will not be deductible. Office holiday parties remain 100% deductible and employee meals while on business travel also remain deductible at 50%. Also eliminated is the deduction for business entertainment expenses (only meals are deductible at 50%; receipts must identify and separate out meal costs from entertainment costs). Employer-provided Transportation Fringe Benefits If you provide transportation fringe benefits to your employees in 2019, the maximum monthly limitation for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle as well as any transit pass is $265. The monthly limitation for qualified parking is $265. While this checklist outlines important tax changes for 2019, additional changes in tax law are likely to arise during the year ahead. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or want to get a head start on tax planning for the year ahead.

Tax Tips for Older Americans

Everyone wants to save money on their taxes, and older Americans are no exception. If you're age 50 or older, here are six tax tips that could help you do just that. 1. Standard Deduction for Seniors. If you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older and you do not itemize your deductions, you can take advantage of a higher standard deduction amount. There is an additional increase in the standard deduction if either you or your spouse is blind. 2. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. If you and/or your spouse are either 65 years or older--or under age 65 years old and are permanently and totally disabled--you may be able to take the Credit for Elderly or Disabled. The credit is based on your age, filing status, and income. You may only take the credit if you meet the following requirements: Your income on Form 1040 line 38 must be less than $17,500 ($20,000 if married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies), $25,000 (married filing jointly and both qualify), or $12,500 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year). and The non-taxable part of your Social Security or other nontaxable pensions, annuities or disability income is less than $5,000 (single, head of household, or qualifying widow/er with dependent child); $5,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies); $7,500 (married filing jointly and both qualify); or $3,750 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse the entire year). 3. Retirement Account Limits Increase. Once you reach age 50, you are eligible to contribute (and defer paying tax on) up to $24,500 in 2018 ($25,000 in 2019). The amount includes the additional $6,000 "catch up" contribution for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan. 4. Early Withdrawal Penalty Eliminated. If you withdraw money from an IRA account before age 59 1/2 you generally must pay a 10 percent penalty (there are exceptions, please call the office for details); however, once you reach age 59 1/2, there is no longer a penalty for early withdrawal. Furthermore, if you leave or are terminated from your job at age 55 or older (age 50 for public safety employees), you may withdraw money from a 401(k) without penalty--but you still have to pay tax on the additional income. To complicate matters, money withdrawn from an IRA is not exempt from the penalty. 5. Social Security Benefits. Americans can sign up for social security benefits as early as age 62 or wait to receive full benefits at age 66 or 67 (depending on your full retirement age). For some older Americans however, social security benefits may be taxable. How much of your income is taxed depends on the amount of your benefits plus any other income you receive. Generally, the more income you have coming in, the more likely it is that a portion of your social security benefits will be taxed. Therefore, when preparing your return, it is advisable to be especially careful when calculating the taxable amount of your Social Security. 6. Higher Income Tax Filing Threshold. Taxpayers who are 65 and older are allowed an income of $1,600 more ($2,600 married filing jointly and both spouses are 65 or older) before they need to file an income tax return. In other words, older taxpayers age 65 and older with income of $13,600 ($26,600 married filing jointly) or less may not need to file a tax return. Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about these and other tax deductions and credits available for older Americans.

The Tax Consequences of Losing your Job

If you've lost your job you may have questions surrounding unemployment compensation, severance, and other issues that could affect your tax situation. Here are some answers: Q: What if I receive unemployment compensation? A:Unemployment compensation you receive under the unemployment compensation laws of the United States or of a state is considered taxable income and must be reported on your federal tax return. If you received unemployment compensation, you will receive Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (Info Copy Only), showing the amount you were paid and any federal income tax you elected to have withheld. Types of unemployment benefits include:
  • Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
  • Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
  • Disability payments from a government program paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
  • Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
  • Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
You must also include benefits from regular union dues paid to you as an unemployed member of a union in your income. However, other rules apply if you contribute to a special union fund and your contributions are not deductible. If this applies to you, only include in income the amount you received from the fund that is more than your contributions. Q: Can I have federal income tax withheld? Yes, you can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment benefits by filling out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you complete the form and give it to the paying office, they will withhold tax at 10 percent of your payments. If you choose not to have tax withheld, you may have to make estimated tax payments throughout the year and you may owe tax when you file your tax return in April. Q: What if I lost my job? A: The loss of a job may create new tax issues. Severance pay and unemployment compensation are taxable. Payments for any accumulated vacation or sick time are also taxable. You should ensure that enough taxes are withheld from these payments or make estimated tax payments to avoid a big bill at tax time. Public assistance and SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) are not taxable. Q: What if I searched for a job? A: Under tax reform, many miscellaneous deductions were eliminated. As such, for tax years 2018-2025, you are no longer able to deduct certain expenses such as travel, resume preparation, and outplacement agency fees incurred while looking for a new job. In prior years, job-seekers were able to deduct these expense-even if they did not get a new job. Moving costs for a new job at least 50 miles away from your home were also deductible; but again, under tax reform, and for tax years 2018-2025, job-related moving expenses are not deductible. Q: What if my employer went out of business or into bankruptcy? A: Your employer must provide you with a Form W-2 showing your wages and withholding by January 31. You should keep up-to-date records or pay stubs until you receive your Form W-2. If your employer or its representatives fail to provide you with a Form W-2, contact the IRS. They can help by providing you with a substitute Form W-2. If your employer liquidated your 401(k) plan, you have 60 days to roll it over into another qualified retirement plan or IRA. If you've experienced a job loss and have questions about how it affects your tax situation, help is just a phone call away.

Employers Beware: Identity Theft and W-2 Scam Alert

The 2019 tax season is quickly approaching and with it an increase in identity theft and W-2 scams. Small business identity theft is big business for identity thieves. Just like individuals, businesses may have their identities stolen, and their sensitive information used to open credit card accounts or used to file fraudulent tax returns for bogus tax refunds. Furthermore, employers also hold sensitive tax data on employees, such as Form W-2 data, which also is highly valued by identity thieves and often used to file fake tax returns. Therefore, it is important for small businesses to take some important steps to protect themselves and their employees. Stolen Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) have long been used by identity thieves to create fake Forms W-2 that they would file with fraudulent individual tax returns. Fraudsters also use EINs to open new lines of credit or obtain credit cards and are now using company names and EINs to file fraudulent returns. The fraudulent filings apply to partnerships as well as estate and trust forms and the IRS has identified an increase in the number of fraudulent Forms 1120, 1120S, and 1041 as well as Schedules K-1.

Signs of Potential Identity Theft

Businesses, partnerships, and estate and trust filers should contact the IRS if they experience any of the following:
  • Extension to file requests are rejected because a return with the Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number is already on file.
  • An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate EIN/SSN is already on file with the IRS.
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice that doesn't correspond to anything submitted by the filer.
  • Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the IRS because the thief has changed the address.

Be on Guard against W-2 Scams

Both public and private sector employers are targets for these W-2 scams, which in recent years have become one of the more dangerous email scams for tax administration. These emails appear to be from an executive or organization leader to a payroll or human resources employee. It may start with a simple, "Hey, you in today?" and, by the end of the exchange, all of an organization's Forms W-2 for their employees may be in the hands of cybercriminals—putting workers at risk for tax-related identity theft. Because payroll officials believe they are corresponding with an executive, it may take weeks for someone to realize a data theft has occurred. Generally, the criminals are trying to quickly take advantage of their theft, sometimes filing fraudulent tax returns within a day or two. This scam is such a threat to taxpayers that the IRS has established a special reporting process.

Reporting Fraud Schemes:

1. Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type "W2 Data Loss" so that the email can be routed properly. Do not attach any employee personally identifiable information data. 2. Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org to get information on how to report victim information to the states. 3. Businesses/payroll service providers should file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov). Businesses/payroll service providers may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement agency. 4. Notify employees so they may take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission's www.identitytheft.gov provides guidance on general steps employees should take. 5. Forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.

Steps Employers can take to Protect Sensitive Information

Employers are urged to put steps and protocols in place for the sharing of sensitive employee information such as Forms W-2. One example would be to have two people review any distribution of sensitive W-2 data or wire transfers. Another example would be to require a verbal confirmation before emailing W-2 data. Employers also are urged to educate their payroll or human resources departments about these scams. Don't hesitate to contact the office if you believe you were a victim of identity theft or any other tax scam.

Like-kind Exchanges are Limited to Real Property

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December 2017, made tax law changes that will affect virtually every business and individual in 2018 and the years ahead. One tax provision that taxpayers should be aware of is that like-kind exchanges are now generally limited to exchanges of real property. Here's what you need to know: Effective January 1, 2018, exchanges of personal or intangible property such as machinery, equipment, vehicles, artwork, collectibles, patents, and other intellectual property generally do not qualify for nonrecognition of gain or loss as like-kind exchanges. However, certain exchanges of mutual ditch, reservoir or irrigation stock are still eligible. Like-kind exchange treatment now applies only to exchanges of real property that is held for use in a trade or business or investment. Real property, also called real estate, includes land and generally anything built on or attached to it. An exchange of real property held primarily for sale still does not qualify as a like-kind exchange. A transition rule in the new law allows like-kind treatment for some exchanges of personal or intangible property. If the taxpayer disposed of the personal or intangible property on or before December 31, 2017, or received replacement property on or before that date, the exchange may qualify for like-kind exchange treatment. Properties are of like-kind if they're of the same nature or character, even if they differ in grade or quality. Improved real property is generally of like-kind to unimproved real property. For example, an apartment building would generally be of like-kind to unimproved land. However, real property in the United States is not of like-kind to real property outside the U.S. A like-kind exchange is reported on Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges, which taxpayers must file with their tax return for the year the taxpayer transfers property as part of a like-kind exchange. This form helps a taxpayer figure the amount of gain deferred as a result of the like-kind exchange, as well as the basis of the like-kind property received if cash or property that isn't of like kind is involved in the exchange. Form 8824 helps taxpayers compute the amount of gain you must report. For more information about this and other tax reform changes, please call.

Standard Mileage Rates for 2019

Starting January 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck are as follows:
  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018
  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The business mileage rate increased 3.5 cents for business travel miles driven and 2 cents for medical and certain moving expense from the rates for 2018. The charitable rate remains unchanged. The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas, and oil. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs, such as gas and oil. The charitable rate is set by law. Taxpayers always have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using a vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates.
Prior to tax reform, these optional standard mileage rates were used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. However, it is important to note that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses. Taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for mileage related to moving expenses, except members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station.
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. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. Please call if you need additional information about these and other special rules. If you have any questions about standard mileage rates or which driving activities you should keep track of as the new tax year begins, do not hesitate to contact the office.

Need to Create Estimates? QuickBooks Can Help.

You don't need to be a car repair shop or an HVAC technician to present prospects and customers with estimates. In fact, there may be many times when an unexpected estimate--or bid, or proposal--will land you a job you didn't necessarily expect. Of course, the bottom line is the meat of your estimate, the price you're willing to accept for your work performed. It's your job to determine that. But let QuickBooks do what it does best: provide intuitive, efficient tools for creating and modifying estimates.

First Steps

Before you start creating estimates, you'll need to make sure they're turned on in QuickBooks. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Jobs & Estimates | Company Preferences. If the Yes button below DO YOU CREATE ESTIMATES? is not filled in, click inside of it to turn on this feature. Also, the Warn about duplicate estimate numbers check box should be activated. There are actually three ways to open an estimate form. You can click the Estimates icon on the home page or open the Customers menu and select Create Estimates. You can also open the Customer Center (Customers | Customer Center) and click on the Transactions tab. Click the New Transactions button in the toolbar and choose Estimates. Figure 1: If you haven't explored QuickBooks' Customer Center, you should. You can do a lot of your sales work directly from there, like creating estimates. As you can see, you can create multiple types of sales forms from here. You can also see lists of existing and historical transactions.

Making It Yours

Before you create your first estimate, you should make sure that the form's header, footer, and columns contain the fields you want. Use one of the three methods we just outlined to open a blank form. Then, with the Formatting tab at the top of the window active, click Customize Data Layout in the toolbar that opens to launch the Additional Customization window. Take your time working with the options in this window. QuickBooks gives you an incredible amount of control over how your estimates will look, but don't get ahead of yourself. Start with the most important content: the text you want to have appear. By default, the software opens a template called Custom Estimate that contains commonly-used fields, like Cost, Description, and Markup. You can easily change these by checking and unchecking their corresponding boxes. Figure 2: You'll check and uncheck boxes to indicate the fields you want to appear in the Header, Columns, and Footer of your estimates.  You'll notice that you can have specific fields appear on the screen and/or on printed copies of your estimates. You can also change the field names (use Bid or Proposal instead of Estimate, for example), and for columns only, the order in which they appear. Warning: Be careful with the Markup field of your estimates. You wouldn't want your customers to see this, so be sure that it is NOT checked in the Print column. As you make changes to this template, you'll see the graphical Previewover to the right change to reflect your modifications. Click Print Preview to see a larger, finished version of your template. When you're satisfied with it, click OK. This will replace your Custom Estimatetemplate.

Adding Templates

You probably noticed other links and icons related to the formatting of estimates. These open advanced tools (if you need help understanding these, don't hesitate to call). Once you've mastered them, you can save multiple versions of your estimate templates to use in different situations. These features include: Figure 3: If you want to create a different look for the Custom Estimate template or build and save a new one, you can walk through this customization wizard.
  • Customize Design. This opens a multi-step wizard that helps you select a background, font, and grid style.
  • Download Templates. You can choose from multiple pre-designed templates.
  • Basic Customization. This window supplies tools for adding a logo and changing colors and fonts.
  • Layout Designer. This tool is only recommended if you already have freeform design skills.

Just Like Invoices

Creating an estimate in QuickBooks is just like filling out an invoice. You enter data where appropriate, and select options from drop-down lists. If you don't have any experience with sales forms and need some guidance, please call and set up a time to go over the entire process, as well as answer any other questions you might have about QuickBooks.

Tax Due Dates for January 2019

During January

All employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2018 by January 31, 2019. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, post it on a website accessible to the employee and notify the employee of the posting by January 31.

January 10

Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during December 2018, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070, Employee's Report of Tips to Employer.

January 15

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2018. Individuals - Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2018 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the final installment date for 2018 estimated tax. However, you do not have to make this payment if you file your 2018 return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due by January 31, 2019. Employers - Nonpayroll Withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2018. Farmers and Fisherman - Pay your estimated tax for 2018 using Form 1040-ES. You have until April 15 (April 17 if you live in Maine and Massachusetts) to file your 2018 income tax return (Form 1040). If you do not pay your estimated tax by January 15, you must file your 2018 return and pay any tax due by March 1, 2019, to avoid an estimated tax penalty.

January 31

Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2018. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you already deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return. Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return. Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more from 2018 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 11 to file the return. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2018. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return. Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2018 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return. Payers of Gambling Winnings - If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W-2G. Employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, post it on a website accessible to the employee and notify the employee. Businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2018. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient. This due date only applies to certain types of payments. Individuals - who must make estimated tax payments. If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2018 by January 31. Filing your return and paying any tax due by January 31, 2019, prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by January 31, file and pay your tax by April 15, 2019 (April 17 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts). Health Coverage Reporting - If you are an Applicable Large Employer, provide Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, to full-time employees. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, provide Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, to responsible individuals. Copyright © 2019   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

December 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Year in Review: Tax Changes for Individuals

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) eliminated or modified numerous tax provisions starting in 2018. Here's what individuals and families need to know as they get ready for tax season. Personal Exemptions  Personal exemptions are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. Standard Deductions The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2018 is $24,000. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $12,000, and for heads of household, the deduction is $18,000. The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2018 is $1,300 for married individuals and $1,600 for singles and heads of household. Income Tax Rates  In 2018 the top tax rate of 37 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $500,000 ($600,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2018 are as follows: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. While the tax rate structure remains similar to prior years (i.e., with seven tax brackets), the tax-bracket thresholds increased significantly for each filing status under tax reform. Estate and Gift Taxes  In 2018 there is an exemption of $11.18 million per individual for estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)  For 2018, exemption amounts increased to $70,300 for single and head of household filers, $109,400 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $54,700 for married taxpayers filing separately. Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)  Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been eliminated under TCJA. Flexible Spending Account (FSA)  A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is limited to $2,650 per year in 2018 (up from $2,600 in 2017) and applies only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term "taxable year" as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made. Long-Term Capital Gains  In 2018 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2017 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, threshold amounts are different in that they don't correspond to the tax bracket structure as they did in the past. For example, taxpayers whose income is below $38,600 for single filers and $77,200 for married filing jointly pay 0% capital gains tax. For individuals whose income is at or above $425,800 ($479,000 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent. Miscellaneous Deductions Miscellaneous deductions exceeding 2% of AGI (adjusted gross income) are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. As such, you can no longer deduct on Schedule A expenses related to tax preparation, moving (except for members of the Armed Forces on active duty who move because of a military order), job hunting, or unreimbursed employee expenses such as tools, supplies, required uniforms, travel, and mileage. Business owners are not affected and can still deduct business-related expenses on Schedule C.

Individuals - Tax Credits

Adoption Credit  In 2018 a nonrefundable (i.e., only those with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $13,810 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child. Child and Dependent Care Credit  The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit was permanently extended for taxable years starting in 2013 and remained under tax reform. As such, if you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income. Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents For tax years 2018 through 2025, the Child Tax Credit increases to $2,000 per child, up from $1,000 in 2017, thanks to the passage of the TCJA. The refundable portion of the credit increases from $1,000 to $1,400 - 15 percent of earned income above $2,500, up to a maximum of $1,400 - so that even if taxpayers do not owe any tax, they can still claim the credit. Please note, however, that the refundable portion of the credit (also known as the additional child tax credit) applies only when the taxpayer isn't able to fully use the $2,000 nonrefundable credit to offset their tax liability. Under TCJA, a new tax credit - Credit for Other Dependents - is also available for dependents who do not qualify for the Child Tax Credit. The $500 credit is nonrefundable and covers children older than age 17 as well as parents or other qualifying relatives supported by a taxpayer. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) For tax year 2018, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate-income workers and working families increased to $6,431 (up from $6,318 in 2017). The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $54,884 (up from $53,930 in 2017) for married filing jointly. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.

Individuals - Education Expenses

Coverdell Education Savings Account  You can contribute up to $2,000 a year to Coverdell savings accounts in 2018. These accounts can be used to offset the cost of elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education. American Opportunity Tax Credit For 2018, the maximum American Opportunity Tax Credit that can be used to offset certain higher education expenses is $2,500 per student, although it is phased out beginning at $160,000 adjusted gross income for joint filers and $80,000 for other filers. Lifetime Learning Credit  A credit of up to $2,000 is available for an unlimited number of years for certain costs of post-secondary or graduate courses or courses to acquire or improve your job skills. For 2018, the modified adjusted gross income threshold at which the Lifetime Learning Credit begins to phase out is $112,000 for joint filers and $56,000 for singles and heads of household. Employer-Provided Educational Assistance  As an employee in 2018, you can exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying postsecondary and graduate education expenses that are reimbursed by your employer. Student Loan Interest  In 2018 you can deduct up to $2,500 in student-loan interest as long as your modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 (single) or $135,000 (married filing jointly). The deduction is phased out at higher income levels.

Individuals - Retirement

Contribution Limits For 2018, the elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is $18,500 ($18,000 in 2017). For persons age 50 or older in 2018, the limit is $24,500 ($6,000 catch-up contribution). Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver's Credit) In 2018, the adjusted gross income limit for the saver's credit for low and moderate-income workers is $63,000 for married couples filing jointly, $47,250 for heads of household, and $31,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles. The maximum credit amount is $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly). Also of note is that starting in 2018, the Saver's Credit can be taken for your contributions to an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account if you're the designated beneficiary. However, keep in mind that your eligible contributions may be reduced by any recent distributions you received from your ABLE account. If you have any questions about these and other tax provisions that could affect your tax situation, don't hesitate to call.

Recap of Business Tax Provisions for 2018

Here's what business owners need to know about tax changes for 2018. Standard Mileage Rates  The standard mileage rate in 2018 is 54.5 cents per business mile driven. Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses  Small business employers who pay at least half the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit as long as they employ fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers and average annual wages do not exceed $50,000 (adjusted annually for inflation). In 2018 this amount is $53,200. In 2018 (as in 2014-2017), the tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees' premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit was 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as charities. Section 179 Expensing and Depreciation Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1 million of the first $2,500,000 of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. The deduction was indexed to inflation after 2018 and enhanced to include improvements to nonresidential qualified real property such as roofs, fire protection, and alarm systems and security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. The standard business depreciation amount is 25 cents per mile (same as 2017). Please call if you have any questions about Section 179 expensing and the bonus depreciation. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Extended through 2019, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit remained under tax reform and can be used by employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more). It is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. Please call if you have any questions about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. SIMPLE IRA Plan Contributions Contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans increased to $12,500 for persons under age 50 and $15,500 for persons age 50 or older in 2018. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions is $275,000. Please contact the office if you would like more information about these and other tax deductions and credits to which you are entitled.

Avoid these Five Common Budgeting Errors

When it comes to creating a budget, it's essential to estimate your spending as realistically as possible. Here are five budget-related errors commonly made by small businesses and some tips for avoiding them.
  1. Not Setting Goals. It's almost impossible to set spending priorities without clear goals for the coming year. It's important to identify, in detail, your business and financial goals and what you want to achieve in your business.
  2. Underestimating Costs. Every business has ancillary or incidental costs that don't always make it into the budget. A good example of this is buying a new piece of equipment or software. While you probably accounted for the cost of the equipment in your budget, you might not have remembered to budget time and money needed to train staff or for equipment maintenance.
  3. Forgetting about Tax Obligations. While your financial statements may seem adequate, don't forget to set aside enough money for tax (e.g., payroll and sales and use taxes) owed to state, local, and federal entities. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is "money in the bank" and use it to pay for expenses you can't afford or worse, including it in next year's budget and later finding out that you don't have the cash to pay for your tax obligations.
  4. Assuming Revenue Equals Positive Cash Flow. Revenue on the books doesn't always equate to cash in hand. Just because you've closed the deal, it may be a long time before you are paid for your services and the money is in your bank account. Easier said than done, perhaps, but don't spend money that you don't have.
  5. Failing to Adjust Your Budget. Don't be afraid to update your forecasted expenditures whenever new circumstances affect your business. Several times a year you should set aside time to compare budget estimates against the amount you spent, and then adjust your budget accordingly.
Please call if you need assistance in setting up a budget to meet your business financial goals.

Eight Tax Breaks for Parents

If you have children, you may be able to reduce your tax bill using these tax credits and deductions.
  1. Child Tax Credit: You may be able to take this credit on your tax return for each of your children under age 17. Qualifying dependents must have a valid Social Security Number. This credit is refundable, which means you may a refund even if you don’t owe any tax.
  2. Credit for Other Dependents: This is a new tax credit under tax reform and is available for dependents for whom taxpayers cannot claim the Child Tax Credit. These dependents may include dependent children who are age 17 or older at the end of 2018 or parents or other qualifying relatives supported by the taxpayer. This credit is nonrefundable.
  3. Child and Dependent Care Credit: You may be able to claim this credit if you pay someone to care for your child under age 13 while you work or look for work. To claim this credit you will need to accurately track your child care expenses.
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit: The EITC is a benefit for certain people who work and have earned income from wages, self-employment, or farming. EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a refund.
  5. Adoption Credit: You may be able to take a tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt a child.
  6. Coverdell Education Savings Account: This savings account is used to pay qualified expenses at an eligible educational institution, which starting in 2018, includes primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and vocational schools. Contributions are not deductible; however, qualified distributions generally are tax-free.
  7. Higher Education Tax Credits: Education tax credits can help offset the costs of education. The American Opportunity and the Lifetime Learning Credits are education tax credits that reduce your federal income tax dollar for dollar, unlike a deduction, which reduces your taxable income.
  8. Student Loan Interest: You may be able to deduct interest you pay on a qualified student loan. The deduction is claimed as an adjustment to income, so you do not need to itemize your deductions.
As you can see, having children can impact your tax situation in multiple ways. Make sure that you're taking advantage of credits and deductions you're entitled to by speaking to a tax professional today.

Tax Transcript Email Scam Alert

Taxpayers should be aware of a new round of fraudulent emails that impersonate the IRS and use tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware. The scam is especially problematic for businesses whose employees might open the emails infected with malware as it can spread throughout the network and may take months to remove. This well-known malware, which is called Emotet, typ[ically tricks people into opening infected documents by posing as specific banks and financial institutions. However, in the past few weeks, the scam has masqueraded as the IRS, pretending to be from "IRS Online." Many of these malicious Emotet emails were recently forwarded to phishing@irs.gov. The scam email carries an attachment labeled "Tax Account Transcript" or something similar, and the subject line uses some variation of the phrase "tax transcript." The exact wording often changes with each version of the malware. Taxpayers should remember that the IRS does not send unsolicited emails to the public, nor would it email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript (a summary of a tax return). Taxpayers receiving a suspicious email are urged not to open the email or the attachment. If using a personal computer, delete or forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov. If you see these types of emails when using an employer's computer, notify your company's internet technology (IT) department immediately. In July, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a warning in July about earlier versions of the Emotet, which it has called one of the most costly and destructive malware affecting the private and public sectors.

Retirement Contributions Limits Announced for 2019

Dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for 2019 are as follows: In general, income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the saver's credit all increased for 2019. The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan also increases from $18,500 to $19,000. Contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts for self-employed persons increase in 2019 as well - from $12,500 to $13,000.

Traditional IRAs

The limit on annual contributions to an IRA increases from $5,500 to $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000. Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions; however, if during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. If a retirement plan at work covers neither the taxpayer nor their spouse, the phase-out amounts of the deduction do not apply. Here are the phase-out ranges for 2019:
  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $64,000 to $74,000, up from $63,000 to $73,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where a workplace retirement plan covers the spouse making the IRA contribution, the phase-out range is $103,000 to $123,000, up from $101,000 to $121,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's income is between $193,000 and $203,000, up from $189,000 and $199,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Roth IRAs

The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $122,000 to $137,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $120,000 to $135,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $193,000 to $203,000, up from $189,000 to $199,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Saver's Credit

The income limit for the Saver's Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $63,000; $48,000 for heads of household, up from $47,250; and $32,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $31,500.

Limitations that remain unchanged from 2018

  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.
Don't hesitate to contact the office if you have any questions about retirement plan contributions.

Transition Rule for Rehabilitation Tax Credit

The Rehabilitation Tax Credit offers an incentive for owners to renovate and restore old or historic buildings. Tax reform legislation passed in December 2017 changed when the credit is claimed and provides a transition rule, which is summarized below: 1. The credit is 20 percent of the taxpayer's qualifying costs for rehabilitating a building. 2. The credit doesn't apply to the money spent on buying the structure. 3. The legislation now requires taxpayers take the 20 percent credit spread out over five years beginning in the year they placed the building into service. 4. The law eliminates the 10 percent rehabilitation credit for pre-1936 buildings. 5. A transition rule provides relief to owners of either a certified historic structure or a pre-1936 building by allowing owners to use the prior law if the project meets these conditions:
  • The taxpayer owned or leased the building on January 1, 2018, and the taxpayer continues to own or lease the building after that date.
  • The 24 or 60-month period selected by the taxpayer for the substantial rehabilitation test begins by June 20, 2018.
6. Taxpayers should use Form 3468, Investment Credit, to claim the rehabilitation tax credit in addition to a variety of other investment credits. Please call if you have any questions about this tax credit.

Depreciating Farming Business Property

Farmers and ranchers should be aware of changes in how they depreciate their farming business property. These changes took effect in 2018 as a result of tax reform legislation passed in December 2017. Depreciation is an annual income tax deduction that allows a taxpayer to recover the cost or other basis of certain property over the time that they use it. When figuring depreciation, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration such as wear and tear and deterioration of the property, as well as whether it is now obsolete. Here are nine facts about these tax law changes to depreciation that could affect farmers and their bottom line: 1. New farming equipment and machinery is five-year property. For property placed in service after December 31, 2017, the recovery period is shortened from seven to five years for machinery and equipment. 2. The shorter recovery period does not apply to grain bins, cotton ginning equipment, fences, and other land improvements. 3. Used equipment remains seven-year property. 4. Property used in a farming business and placed in service after December 31, 2017, is not required to use the 150-percent declining balance method. Farmers and ranchers must continue to use the 150-percent declining balance method for property that is 15 or 20 years old to which the straight-line method does not apply and for property that the taxpayer elects. 5. New and certain used equipment acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, qualifies for 100 percent first-year bonus depreciation for the tax year in which the property is placed in service. 6. A taxpayer may elect to expense the cost of any section 179 property and deduct it in the year the property is placed in service. The new law increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million. It also increased the phase-out threshold from $2 million to $2.5 million. These amounts ($1 million and $2 million) will be adjusted for inflation for taxable years beginning after 2018. 7. The new law increases the bonus depreciation percentage from 50 percent to 100 percent for qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017. The bonus depreciation percentage for qualified property that a taxpayer acquired and placed in service before September 28, 2017, remains at 50 percent. Special rules apply for longer production period property and certain aircraft. 8. The definition of property eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation was expanded to include used qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, as long as certain requirements are met. 9. Farming businesses that elect out of the interest deduction limit must use the alternative depreciation system to depreciate any property with a recovery period of 10 years or more. This provision applies to tax years starting in 2018 and refers to property such as single purpose agricultural or horticultural structures, trees or vines bearing fruit or nuts, farm buildings, and certain land improvements. Questions? Don't hesitate to call.

Take Retirement Plan Distributions by December 31

Taxpayers born before July 1, 1948, generally must receive payments from their individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by December 31. Known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), typically these distributions must be made by the end of the tax year, in this case, 2018. The required distribution rules apply to owners of traditional, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs while the original owner is alive. They also apply to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount on Form 5498 in Box 12b. For a 2018 RMD, this amount is on the 2017 Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information, normally issued to the owner during January 2018. A special rule allows first-year recipients of these payments, those who reached age 70 1/2 during 2018 to wait until as late as April 1, 2019, to receive their first RMDs. What this means that those born after June 30, 1947, and before July 1, 1948, are eligible. The advantage of this special rule is that although payments made to these taxpayers in early 2019 (up to April 1, 2019) can be counted toward their 2018 RMD, they are taxable in 2019. The special April 1 deadline only applies to the RMD for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by December 31. So, for example, a taxpayer who turned 70 1/2 in 2017 (born after June 30, 1946, and before July 1, 1947) and received the first RMD (for 2017) on April 1, 2018, must still receive a second RMD (for 2018 by December 31, 2018. The RMD for 2018 is based on the taxpayer's life expectancy on December 31, 2018, and their account balance on December 31, 2017. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. For most taxpayers, the RMD is based on Table III (Uniform Lifetime Table) in IRS Publication 590-B. For a taxpayer who turned 72 in 2018, the required distribution would be based on a life expectancy of 25.6 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer whose spouse is more than ten years younger and is the taxpayer's only beneficiary. If you need assistance with this, don't hesitate to call. Though the RMD rules are mandatory for all owners of traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs and participants in workplace retirement plans, some people in workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMDs. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions; however, there may be a tax on excess accumulations. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals. For more information on RMDs, please contact the office.

New Depreciation Deduction Benefits Business

Tax reform legislation passed in December 2017 included numerous changes that affect businesses this year. One of them allows businesses to write off most depreciable business assets in the year they place them in service. Here are five facts to help businesses better understand this deduction: 1. The 100-percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property. 2. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances, and furniture generally qualify. 3. The 100-percent depreciation deduction applies to qualifying property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017. 4. Taxpayers who elect out of the 100-percent depreciation deduction for a class of property must do so on a timely filed return. 5. The IRS has issued proposed regulations with guidance on what property qualifies and rules for qualified film, television and live theatrical productions, and certain plants. For more details about the 100-percent depreciation deduction or electing out of claiming it, please call.

Paying Bills in QuickBooks: The Basics

Last month, we explained that the process of paying bills in QuickBooks requires two separate sets of actions. We went over what's required to enter bills and to set up reminders, so they don't get overlooked. This month's column will walk you through the second step: paying the bills. You'll remember you must first click Enter Bills on the home page (or open the Vendors menu and select Enter Bills), which opens a graphical representation of a bill. Select a Vendor from the drop-down list and complete the remaining fields in the top box. Make sure the Amount Due carries over to the lower part of the screen under either the Expenses or Items tab and that the rest of the fields there are completed and correct before you save the bill. A bill, once saved, will be available to you when you click Pay Bills on the home page. That action will open a window like this one: Figure 1: When you click Pay Bills on QuickBooks' home page, a screen containing a table like this will open.  In the upper left corner, you'll first SELECT BILLS TO BE PAID by either defining a date range or asking to see all bills that have been entered but not yet paid. To the right of those options is the Filter Byfield. You can open the list and click All Vendors or click on a specific vendor. Selecting an option in the Sort By field allows you to change the display order of the list of bills.

Selecting Bills

Next, you'll have to indicate which bills you want to pay, and by what method. It may take more than one pass if you're using different payment methods for different vendors. If that's the case, you'll have to select bills in batches. Click in the box in front of each bill that you want to pay (or click Select All Bills below the table). There are several columns in the table you will see. Some will already be filled in for each vendor with information that was included in the actual bill, like REF. NO. and AMT. DUE. Others refer to discounts and credits. If you've already set up vendor discounts (early payment, for example) or are entitled to a credit (overpayment, returned merchandise, etc.) and have set up QuickBooks to apply those to bills automatically, they should appear in those columns. Tip: If you are the company administrator, you can set up this option. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences | Bills. With the Company Preferences tab active, check the boxes in front of Automatically Use Credits and Automatically Use Discounts, and select the correct Default Discount Account. Discounts and credits are rather complex concepts in QuickBooks, and you might need help setting them up. If so, don't hesitate to call. The final step in bill paying on this page is to enter the AMT. TO PAY at the end of each applicable row.

Dispatching Payments

If you've selected All Bills (or chosen a batch that will use the same payment method), you'll need to deal with the lower half of the bill-pay screen, which will look something like this: Figure 2: Whether you'll be dealing with credits and discounts or not you'll still have some work to do at the bottom of the bill-paying screen. You can click on Go to Bill if you need to see the original form; also, verify the Payment Date and Terms are correct. You can still Set Discount and Set Credits here, but again, please don't do so until we've scheduled a session to go over these advanced tools if you plan to use them. Select a payment method for the bills you've selected; the options and account to the right of your choice will change depending on which it is. When you're done, click Pay Selected Bills and do any follow-up work that's requested. The bill-pay process in QuickBooks has a lot of moving parts, some of which may need prep work before you can dispatch bills. If you're planning to use this element of QuickBooks, please call to set up a consultation. Although beneficial, it's one of the more complicated processes in the software, and it must be carried out with extreme accuracy. When you're ready to get started, please call the office for assistance.

Tax Due Dates for December 2018

December 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during November, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

December 17

Corporations - Deposit the fourth installment of estimated income tax for 2018. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year. Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November. Employers Nonpayroll withholding - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November. Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owner

November 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Year-End Tax Planning for Individuals

Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents a number of challenges, this year, primarily due to tax laws changes brought about the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018. These changes include the nearly doubling of the standard deduction, elimination of personal exemptions, and numerous itemized deductions reduced or eliminated. Let's take a closer look.

General Tax Planning

General tax planning strategies for individuals this year include postponing income and accelerating deductions, as well as careful consideration of timing related investments, charitable gifts, and retirement planning. For example, taxpayers might consider using one or more of the following:
  • Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
  • If you anticipate an increase in taxable income this year, in 2018, and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind, however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file your 2019 tax return in 2020. Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about this.
  • Prepaying deductible expenses this year using a credit card. Examples of deductible expenses include charitable contributions and medical expenses. This strategy works because deductions may be taken based on when the expense was charged on the credit card, not when the bill was paid. Likewise with checks. For example, if you charge a medical expense in December but pay the bill in January, assuming it's an eligible medical expense, it can be taken as a deduction on your 2018 tax return.
  • If your company grants stock options, then you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year. Use this strategy if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2019. Generally, exercising this option is a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
  • If you're self-employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year to be paid in full by the end of December.
Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.

Accelerating Income and Deductions

Accelerating income and deductions are two strategies that are commonly used to help taxpayers minimize their tax liability. Most taxpayers anticipate increased earnings from year to year, whether it’s from a job or investments, so this strategy works well. On the flip side, however, if you anticipate a lower income next year or know you will have significant medical bills, you might want to consider deferring income and expenses to the following year. Accelerating Income If you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year, accelerating income into 2018 is a good idea, especially for taxpayers whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare Tax or Net Investment Income Tax (see below).
Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent of net investment income) should pay close attention to "one-time" income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.
Tip: If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, there is still time to increase your withholding before year-end and avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due. On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.
In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2018, depending on your situation. Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest are examples of these types of tax benefits. Examples of other strategies a taxpayer might take include:
  • Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
  • Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2019, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
  • Pay 2019 tuition in 2018 to take full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an above-the-line credit worth up to $2,500 per student to cover the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable, which means you can get it even if you owe no tax.
  • Try to bunch medical expenses. For example, you might pay medical bills in whichever year they would do you the most tax good. Medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, to deduct medical and dental expenses these amounts must exceed 7.5 percent of AGI. By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.
    Note: The 7.5 percent threshold is only in effect for tax years 2017 and 2018. In 2019, it reverts to 10 percent AGI.

Additional Medicare Tax

Taxpayers whose income exceeds certain threshold amounts ($200,000 single filers and $250,000 married filing jointly) are liable for an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on their tax returns, but may request that their employers withhold additional income tax from their pay to be applied against their tax liability when filing their 2018 tax return next April. High net worth individuals should consider contributing to Roth IRAs and 401(k) because distributions are not subject to the Medicare Tax. If you're a taxpayer close to the threshold for the Medicare Tax, it might make sense to switch Roth retirement contributions to a traditional IRA plan, thereby avoiding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) as well (more about the NIIT below).

Alternate Minimum Tax

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) applies to high-income taxpayers that take advantage of deductions and credits to reduce their taxable income. The AMT ensures that those taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of tax and was made permanent under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012. Although the AMT remained under the TCJA exemption amounts increased significantly. As such, the AMT is not expected to affect as many taxpayers. Furthermore, the phaseout threshold increases to $500,000 ($1 million for married filing jointly). Both the exemption and threshold amounts are indexed for inflation.
Note: AMT exemption amounts for 2018 are as follows:
  • $70,300 for single and head of household filers,
  • $109,400 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers,
  • $54,700 for married people filing separately.

Charitable Contributions

Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however. Keep in mind that a written record of your charitable contributions--including travel expenses such as mileage--is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a canceled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.
Taxpayers age 70 ½ or older can reduce income tax owed on required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRA accounts by donating them to a charitable organization(s) instead.

Investment Gains and Losses

This year, and in the coming years, investment decisions are often more about managing capital gains than about minimizing taxes per se. For example, taxpayers below threshold amounts in 2018 might want to take gains; whereas taxpayers above threshold amounts might want to take losses.
Caution: Fluctuations in the stock market are commonplace; don't assume that a down market means investment losses as your cost basis may be low if you've held the stock for a long time.
Minimize taxes on investments by judicious matching of gains and losses. Where appropriate, try to avoid short-term capital gains, which are taxed as ordinary income (i.e., the rate is the same as your tax bracket). In 2018 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2017 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, due to tax reform, threshold amounts do not correspond to the new tax bracket structure as in prior years:
  • 0% - Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income up to $38,600 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly.
  • 15% - Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $38,600 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly.
  • 20% - Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $425,800 for single filers, $479,000 for married filing jointly.
Where feasible, reduce all capital gains and generate short-term capital losses up to $3,000. As a general rule, if you have a large capital gain this year, consider selling an investment on which you have an accumulated loss. Capital losses up to the amount of your capital gains plus $3,000 per year ($1,500 if married filing separately) can be claimed as a deduction against income. Wash Sale Rule. After selling a securities investment to generate a capital loss, you can repurchase it after 30 days. This is known as the "Wash Rule Sale." If you buy it back within 30 days, the loss will be disallowed. Or you can immediately repurchase a similar (but not the same) investment, e.g., and ETF or another mutual fund with the same objectives as the one you sold.
Tip: If you have losses, you might consider selling securities at a gain and then immediately repurchasing them, since the 30-day rule does not apply to gains. That way, your gain will be tax-free; your original investment is restored, and you have a higher cost basis for your new investment (i.e., any future gain will be lower).

Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)

The Net Investment Income Tax, which went into effect in 2013, is a 3.8 percent tax that is applied to investment income such as long-term capital gains for earners above certain threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). Short-term capital gains are subject to ordinary income tax rates as well as the 3.8 percent NIIT. This information is something to think about as you plan your long-term investments. Business income is not considered subject to the NIIT provided the individual business owner materially participates in the business. Please call if you need assistance with any of your long-term tax planning goals.

Mutual Fund Investments

Before investing in a mutual fund, ask whether a dividend is paid at the end of the year or whether a dividend will be paid early in the next year but be deemed paid this year. The year-end dividend could make a substantial difference in the tax you pay.
Example: You invest $20,000 in a mutual fund in 2018. You opt for automatic reinvestment of dividends, and in late December of 2018, the fund pays a $1,000 dividend on the shares you bought. The $1,000 is automatically reinvested. Result: You must pay tax on the $1,000 dividend. You will have to take funds from another source to pay that tax because of the automatic reinvestment feature. The mutual fund's long-term capital gains pass through to you as capital gains dividends taxed at long-term rates, however long or short your holding period. The mutual fund's distributions to you of dividends it receives generally qualify for the same tax relief as long-term capital gains. If the mutual fund passes through its short-term capital gains, these will be reported to you as "ordinary dividends" that don't qualify for relief.
Depending on your financial circumstances, it may or may not be a good idea to buy shares right before the fund goes ex-dividend. For instance, the distribution could be relatively small, with only minor tax consequences. Or the market could be moving up, with share prices expected to be higher after the ex-dividend date. To find out a fund's ex-dividend date, call the fund directly. Please call if you'd like more information on how dividends paid out by mutual funds affect your taxes this year and next.

Year-End Giving To Reduce Your Potential Estate Tax

The federal gift and estate tax exemption is currently set at $11.18 million but is projected to increase to $11.4 million in 2019. ATRA set the maximum estate tax rate set at 40 percent. Gift Tax. Sound estate planning often begins with lifetime gifts to family members. In other words, gifts that reduce the donor's assets subject to future estate tax. Such gifts are often made at year-end, during the holiday season, in ways that qualify for exemption from federal gift tax. Gifts to a donee are exempt from the gift tax for amounts up to $15,000 a year per donee in 2018 and are expected to remain the same in 2019.
Caution: An unused annual exemption doesn't carry over to later years. To make use of the exemption for 2018, you must make your gift by December 31.
Husband-wife joint gifts to any third person are exempt from gift tax for amounts up to $30,000 ($15,000 each). Though what's given may come from either you or your spouse or both of you, both of you must consent to such "split gifts." Gifts of "future interests," assets that the donee can only enjoy at some future time such as certain gifts in trust, generally don't qualify for exemption; however, gifts for the benefit of a minor child can be made to qualify.
Tip: If you're considering adopting a plan of lifetime giving to reduce future estate tax, don't hesitate to call the office for assistance.
Cash or publicly traded securities raise the fewest problems. You may choose to give property you expect to increase substantially in value later. Shifting future appreciation to your heirs keeps that value out of your estate. But this can trigger IRS questions about the gift's true value when given. You may choose to give property that has already appreciated. The idea here is that the donee, not you, will realize and pay income tax on future earnings and built-in gain on sale. Gift tax returns for 2018 are due the same date as your income tax return (April 15, 2019). Returns are required for gifts over $15,000 (including husband-wife split gifts totaling more than $15,000) and gifts of future interests. Though you are not required to file if your gifts do not exceed $15,000, you might consider filing anyway as a tactical move to block a future IRS challenge about gifts not "adequately disclosed." Please call the office if you're considering making a gift of property whose value isn't unquestionably less than $15,000.

New Tax Rate Structure for the Kiddie Tax

Under the TCJA, the kiddie tax rules have changed. For tax years 2018 through 2025, unearned income exceeding $2,100 is taxed at the rates paid by trusts and estates. For ordinary income (amounts over $12,501), the maximum rate is 37 percent. For long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, the maximum rate is 20 percent.

Other Year-End Moves

Maximize Retirement Plan Contributions. If you own an incorporated or unincorporated business, consider setting up a retirement plan if you don't already have one. It doesn't actually need to be funded until you pay your taxes, but allowable contributions will be deductible on this year's return. If you are an employee and your employer has a 401(k), contribute the maximum amount ($18,500 for 2018), plus an additional catch-up contribution of $6,000 if age 50 or over, assuming the plan allows this and income restrictions don't apply. If you are employed or self-employed with no retirement plan, you can make a deductible contribution of up to $5,500 a year to a traditional IRA (deduction is sometimes allowed even if you have a plan). Further, there is also an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 if age 50 or over. Health Savings Accounts. Consider setting up a health savings account (HSA). You can deduct contributions to the account, investment earnings are tax-deferred until withdrawn, and amounts you withdraw are tax-free when used to pay medical bills. In effect, medical expenses paid from the account are deductible from the first dollar (unlike the usual rule limiting such deductions to the amount of excess over 7.5 percent of AGI). For amounts withdrawn at age 65 or later that are not used for medical bills, the HSA functions much like an IRA. To be eligible, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and only such insurance, subject to numerous exceptions, and must not be enrolled in Medicare. For 2018, to qualify for the HSA, your minimum deductible in your HDHP must be at least $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for a family. 529 Education Plans. Maximize contributions to 529 plans, which starting in 2018, can be used for elementary and secondary school tuition as well as college or vocational school.

Summary

These are just a few of the steps you might take. Please contact the office for assistance with implementing these and other year-end planning strategies that might be suitable for your particular situation.

Year-End Tax Planning for Businesses

There are a number of end of year tax planning strategies that businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2018. Here are a few of them:

Deferring Income

Businesses using the cash method of accounting can defer income into 2019 by delaying end-of-year invoices, so payment is not received until 2019. Businesses using the accrual method can defer income by postponing delivery of goods or services until January 2019.

Purchase New Business Equipment

Section 179 Expensing. Business should take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2018 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $1 million for the first $2.5 million of property placed in service by December 31, 2018. Keep in mind that the Section 179 deduction cannot exceed net taxable business income. The deduction is phased out dollar for dollar on amounts exceeding the $2.5 million threshold and eliminated above amounts exceeding $3.5 million.
Caution: The new law removes computer or peripheral equipment from the definition of listed property. This change applies to property placed in service after December 31, 2017.
Tax reform legislation also expanded the definition of Section 179 property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property after the date when the property was first placed in service (see below). These changes apply to property placed in service in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. 1. Qualified improvement property, which means any improvement to a building's interior. However, improvements do not qualify if they are attributable to:
  • the enlargement of the building,
  • any elevator or escalator or
  • the internal structural framework of the building.
2. Roofs, HVAC, fire protection systems, alarm systems and security systems. Bonus Depreciation. Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. Qualified Property Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired.
Note: Many states have not matched these amounts and, therefore, state tax may not allow for the maximum federal deduction. In this case, two sets of depreciation records will be needed to track the federal and state tax impact.
Please contact the office if you have any questions regarding qualified property. If you plan to purchase business equipment this year, consider the timing. You might be able to increase your tax benefit if you buy equipment at the right time. Here's a simplified explanation: Conventions. The tax rules for depreciation include "conventions" or rules for figuring out how many months of depreciation you can claim. There are three types of conventions. To select the correct convention, you must know the type of property and when you placed the property in service.
    1. The half-year convention: This convention applies to all property except residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores (see mid-month convention below) unless the mid-quarter convention applies. All property that you begin using during the year is treated as "placed in service" (or "disposed of") at the midpoint of the year. This means that no matter when you begin using (or dispose of) the property, you treat it as if you began using it in the middle of the year.
Example: You buy a $70,000 piece of machinery on December 15. If the half-year convention applies, you get one-half year of depreciation on that machine.
    1. The mid-quarter convention: The mid-quarter convention must be used if the cost of equipment placed in service during the last three months of the tax year is more than 40 percent of the total cost of all property placed in service for the entire year. If the mid-quarter convention applies, the half-year rule does not apply, and you treat all equipment placed in service during the year as if it were placed in service at the midpoint of the quarter in which you began using it.
    2. The mid-month convention: This convention applies only to residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores. It treats all property placed in service (or disposed of) during any month as placed in service (or disposed of) on the midpoint of that month.
If you're planning on buying equipment for your business, call the office and speak with a tax professional who can help you figure out the best time to buy that equipment and take full advantage of these tax rules.

Other Year-End Moves to Take Advantage Of

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Small business employers with 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees with average annual wages of $50,000 indexed for inflation (e.g., $52,400 in 2017) may qualify for a tax credit to help pay for employees' health insurance. The credit is 50 percent (35 percent for non-profits). Business Energy Investment Tax Credits. Business energy investment tax credits are still available for eligible systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2022, and businesses that want to take advantage of these tax credits can still do so. Business energy credits include geothermal electric, large wind (expires 2020), and solar energy systems used to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or to provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat. Hybrid solar lighting systems, which use solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, are eligible; however, passive solar and solar pool-heating systems excluded are excluded. Utilities are allowed to use the credits as well. Repair Regulations. Where possible, end of year repairs and expenses should be deducted immediately, rather than capitalized and depreciated. Small businesses lacking applicable financial statements (AFS) are able to take advantage of de minimis safe harbor by electing to deduct smaller purchases ($2,500 or less per purchase or per invoice). Businesses with applicable financial statements are able to deduct $5,000. Small business with gross receipts of $10 million or less can also take advantage of safe harbor for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to eligible buildings. Please call if you would like more information on this topic. Qualified Business Income Deduction. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act non-corporations) may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20 percent of their qualified business income (QBI) from a qualified trade or business for tax years 2018 through 2025. To take advantage of the deduction, taxable income must be under $157,500 ($315,000 for joint returns). The QBI is complex, and tax planning strategies can directly affect the amount of deduction, i.e., increase or reduce the dollar amount. As such it is especially important to speak with a tax professional before year's end to determine the best way to maximize the deduction. Depreciation Limitations on Luxury, Passenger Automobiles and Heavy Vehicles The new law changed depreciation limits for luxury passenger vehicles placed in service after December 31, 2017. If the taxpayer doesn't claim bonus depreciation, the maximum allowable depreciation deduction is $10,000 for the first year. For passenger autos eligible for the additional bonus first-year depreciation, the maximum first-year depreciation allowance remains at $8,000. It applies to new and used ("new to you") vehicles acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and remains in effect for tax years through December 31, 2022. When combined with the increased depreciation allowance above, the deduction amounts to as much as $18,000. Under tax reform, heavy vehicles including pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is more than 6,000 pounds are treated as transportation equipment instead of passenger vehicles. As such, heavy vehicles (new or used) placed into service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, qualify for a 100 percent first-year bonus depreciation deduction as well.
Note: Deductions are based on a percentage of business use; i.e., a business owner whose business use of the vehicle is 100 percent can take a larger deduction than one whose business use of a car is only 50 percent.
Retirement Plans. Self-employed individuals who have not yet done so should set up self-employed retirement plans before the end of 2018. Call today if you need help setting up a retirement plan. Dividend Planning. Reduce accumulated corporate profits and earnings by issuing corporate dividends to shareholders.

Call a Tax Professional First

These are just a few of the year-end planning tax moves that could make a substantial difference in your tax bill for 2018. If you'd like more information, please call to schedule a consultation to discuss your specific tax and financial needs, and develop a plan that works for your business.

Tax Benefits of Health Savings Accounts

While similar to FSAs (Flexible Savings Plans) in that both allow pre-tax contributions, Health Savings Accounts or HSAs offer taxpayers several additional tax benefits such as contributions that roll over from year to year (i.e., no "use it or lose it"), tax-free interest on earnings, and when used for qualified medical expenses, tax-free distributions.

What is a Health Savings Account?

A Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that allows you to set aside money pre-tax to pay for qualified medical expenses. Contributions that you make to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses (including after you've retired) of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent.
Caution: Medical expenses that are reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return are not eligible.
Caution: Insurance premiums for taxpayers younger than age 65 are generally not considered qualified medical expenses unless the premiums are for health care continuation coverage (such as coverage under COBRA), health care coverage while receiving unemployment compensation under federal or state law.
You cannot be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care and you cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. Spouses cannot open joint HSAs. Each spouse who is an eligible individual who wants an HSA must open a separate HSA. An HSA can be opened through your bank or another financial institution. Contributions to an HSA must be made in cash. Contributions of stock or property are not allowed. As an employee may be able to elect to have money set aside and deposited directly into an HSA account; however, if this option is not offered by your employer, then you must wait until filing a tax return to claim the HSA contributions as a deduction. High Deductible Health Plans. A Health Savings Account can only be used if you have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). Typically, high-deductible health plans have lower monthly premiums than plans with lower deductibles, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high-deductible plan can be combined with a health savings account, allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with tax-free money that you have set aside. By using the pre-tax funds in your HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses before you reach your deductible and other out-of-pocket costs such as copayments, you reduce your overall health care costs. Calendar year 2018. For calendar year 2018, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage. Annual out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) of the beneficiary are limited to $6,650 for self-only coverage and $13,300 for family coverage. This limit doesn't apply to deductibles and expenses for out-of-network services if the plan uses a network of providers. Instead, only deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for services within the network should be used to figure whether the limit applies. Last month rule. Under the last-month rule, you are considered to be an eligible individual for the entire year if you are an eligible individual on the first day of the last month of your tax year (December 1 for most taxpayers). You can make contributions to your HSA for 2018 until April 15, 2019. Your employer can make contributions to your HSA between January 1, 2019, and April 15, 2019, that are allocated to 2018. The contribution will be reported on your 2019 Form W-2.

Summary of HSA Tax Advantages

  • Tax deductible. You can claim a tax deduction for contributions you, or someone other than your employer, make to your HSA even if you don't itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040).
  • Pre-tax dollars. Contributions to your HSA made by your employer (including contributions made through a cafeteria plan) may be excluded from your gross income.
  • Tax-free interest on earnings. Contributions remain in your account until you use them and are rolled over year after year. Any interest or other earnings on the assets in the account are tax-free. Furthermore, an HSA is "portable" and stays with you if you change employers or leave the workforce.
  • Tax-free distributions. Distributions may be tax-free if you pay qualified medical expenses.
  • Additional contributions for older workers. Employees, aged 55 years and older are able to save an additional $1,000 per year.
  • Tax-free after retirement. Distributions are tax-free at age 65 when used for qualified medical expenses including amounts used to pay Medicare Part B and Part D premiums, and long-term care insurance policy premiums. However, you cannot use money in an HSA to pay for supplemental insurance (e.g., Medigap) premiums.
If you have any questions about HSAs, help is just a phone call away.

Making Tax Smart Loans to Family and Friends

Lending money to a cash-strapped friend or family member is a noble and generous offer that just might make a difference. But before you hand over the cash, you need to plan ahead to avoid tax complications for yourself down the road. Take a look at this example: Let's say you decide to loan $5,000 to your daughter who's been out of work for over a year and is having difficulty keeping up with the mortgage payments on her condo. While you may be tempted to charge an interest rate of zero percent, you should resist the temptation. Here's why: When you make an interest-free loan to someone, you will be subject to "below-market interest rules." IRS rules state that you need to calculate imaginary interest payments from the borrower. These imaginary interest payments are then payable to you, and you will need to pay taxes on these interest payments when you file a tax return. To complicate matters further, if the imaginary interest payments exceed $15,000 for the year, there may be adverse gift and estate tax consequences.
Exception: The IRS lets you ignore the rules for small loans ($10,000 or less), as long as the aggregate loan amounts to a single borrower are less than $10,000, and the borrower doesn't use the loan proceeds to buy or carry income-producing assets.
As was mentioned above, if you don't charge any interest, or charge interest that is below market rate (more on this below), then the IRS might consider your loan a gift, especially if there is no formal documentation (i.e., written agreement with payment schedule), and you go to make a nonbusiness bad debt deduction if the borrower defaults on the loan--or the IRS decides to audit you and decides your loan is really a gift. Formal documentation generally refers to a written promissory note that includes the interest rate, a repayment schedule showing dates and amounts for all principal and interest, and security or collateral for the loan, such as a residence (see below). Make sure that all parties sign the note so that it's legally binding. As long as you charge an interest rate that is at least equal to the applicable federal rate (AFR) approved by the Internal Revenue Service, you can avoid tax complications and unfavorable tax consequences. AFRs for term loans, that is, loans with a defined repayment schedule, are updated monthly by the IRS and published in the IRS Bulletin. AFRs are based on the bond market, which changes frequently. For term loans, use the AFR published in the same month that you make the loan. The AFR is a fixed rate for the duration of the loan. Any interest income that you make from the term loan is included on your Form 1040. In general, the borrower, who in this example is your daughter, cannot deduct interest paid, but there is one exception: if the loan is secured by her home, then the interest can be deducted as qualified residence interest--as long as the promissory note for the loan was secured by the residence. If you have any questions about the tax implications of loaning a friend or family member money, please contact the office.

Section 199A: Qualified Business Income Deduction

Thanks to tax reform legislation passed in December 2017, eligible taxpayers may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from qualified domestic businesses, as well as certain dividends. Eligible taxpayers can claim the deduction for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file in 2019.
Note: Although the final regulations have not yet been published in the Federal Register, taxpayers who wish to become familiar with the rules may review the proposed regulations issued by visiting the IRS website or calling the office.
The Qualified Business Income Deduction (QBID) often referred to as the 20 percent deduction for pass-through entities, is also known as the Section 199A deduction as it is named after Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code. Here are six key facts about the qualified business income deduction: 1. The deduction applies to qualified business income from a qualified business (i.e. pass-through entities) such as:
  • a sole proprietorship
  • S-corporation
  • Partnership
  • LLC treated as a sole proprietorship or partnership for tax purposes
  • Non-corporate taxpayers such as trusts and estates
  • REITs
  • Publicly traded partnerships
2. Qualified business income is the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss connected to a qualified U.S. trade or business. Only items included in taxable income are counted. Qualified business income does not include income from performing services as an employee. Capital gains and losses, shareholders wages, certain dividends, and interest income are excluded as well. 3. The deduction is available to eligible taxpayers, whether they itemize their deductions on Schedule A or take the standard deduction. The deduction can be taken in addition to the standard or itemized deductions and is subject to limitations based on the type of trade or business, the taxpayer's taxable income, the amount of W-2 wages paid with respect to the qualified trade or business, and the unadjusted basis of qualified property held by the trade or business. 4. The deduction is generally equal to the lesser of these two amounts:
  • Twenty percent of qualified business income plus 20 percent of qualified real estate investment trust dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income.
  • Twenty percent of taxable income computed before the qualified business income deduction minus net capital gains.
5. For taxpayers with taxable income computed before the qualified business income deduction that exceeds $315,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, or $157,500 for all other taxpayers, the deduction may be subject to additional limitations or exceptions. These are based on the type of trade or business (see below), the taxpayer's taxable income, the amount of W-2 wages paid by the qualified trade or business, and the unadjusted basis immediately after acquisition of qualified property held by the trade or business. 6. Income earned through a C corporation is not eligible for the deduction. 7. Qualified Trade or Business. A qualified trade or business is any trade or business except one involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, investing and investment management, trading, dealing in certain assets or any trade or business where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees. This exclusion only applies, however, if a taxpayer's taxable income exceeds $315,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, or $157,500 for all other taxpayers. While relatively straightforward for most businesses, those with more complicated tax structures or multiple businesses or trades, consulting a tax professional is advised. As always, don't hesitate to call if you have any questions.

Business Expense Deductions for Meals, Entertainment

As the end of year approaches, taxpayers should be reminded that business expense deduction for meals and entertainment have changed due to tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Until proposed regulations clarifying when business meal expenses are deductible and what constitutes entertainment are in effect, taxpayers should rely on transitional guidance that was recently issued by the IRS. Prior to 2018, a business could deduct up to 50 percent of entertainment expenses directly related to the active conduct of a trade or business or, if incurred immediately before or after a bona fide business discussion, associated with the active conduct of a trade or business. However, the 2017 TCJA eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation. Taxpayers may continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant. The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact. Please note that food and beverages that are provided during entertainment events will not be considered entertainment if purchased separately from the event.

Understanding the Gift Tax

If you gave money or property to someone as a gift, you might owe federal gift tax. Many gifts are not subject to the gift tax, but there are exceptions. Here are eight tips you can use to figure out whether your gift is taxable. 1. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax. For example, there is usually no tax if you make a gift to your spouse or to a charity. If you make a gift to someone else, the gift tax usually does not apply until the value of the gifts you give that person exceeds the annual exclusion for the year. For 2018 the annual exclusion is $15,000 (up from $14,000 in 2017). 2. Gift tax returns do not need to be filed unless you give someone, other than your spouse, money or property worth more than the annual exclusion for that year. 3. Generally, the person who receives your gift will not have to pay any federal gift tax because of it. Also, that person will not have to pay income tax on the value of the gift received. 4. Making a gift does not ordinarily affect your federal income tax. You cannot deduct the value of gifts you make (other than deductible charitable contributions). 5. The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. The following gifts are not taxable gifts:
  • Gifts that are do not exceed the annual exclusion for the calendar year,
  • Tuition or medical expenses you pay directly to a medical or educational institution for someone,
  • Gifts to your spouse,
  • Gifts to a political organization for its use, and
  • Gifts to charities.
6. You and your spouse can make a gift up to $30,000 to a third party without making a taxable gift. The gift can be considered as made one-half by you and one-half by your spouse. If you split a gift you made, you must file a gift tax return to show that you and your spouse agree to use gift splitting. You must file a Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion. 7. You must file a gift tax return on Form 709 if any of the following apply:
  • You gave gifts to at least one person (other than your spouse) that are more than the annual exclusion for the year.
  • You and your spouse are splitting a gift.
  • You gave someone (other than your spouse) a gift of a future interest that he or she cannot actually possess, enjoy, or receive income from until some time in the future.
  • You gave your spouse an interest in property that will terminate due to a future event.
8. You do not have to file a gift tax return to report gifts to political organizations and gifts made by paying someone's tuition or medical expenses. Questions about the gift tax? Don't hesitate to call.

The Health Care Law and Hiring Seasonal Workers

Businesses often need to hire workers on a seasonal or part-time basis. For example, some businesses may need seasonal help for holidays, harvest seasons, commercial fishing, or sporting events. Whether you are getting paid or paying someone else, questions often arise over whether these seasonal workers affect employers with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For the purposes of the Affordable Care Act the size of an employer is determined by the number of employees. As such, employer-offered benefits, opportunities, and requirements are dependent upon your organization's size and the applicable rules. For instance, if you have at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, you are an ALE (Applicable Large Employer) for the current calendar year. If you hire seasonal or holiday workers, you should know how these employees are counted under the health care law: Seasonal worker. A seasonal worker is generally defined for this purpose as an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis, generally for not more than four months (or 120 days). Retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons, for example, are seasonal workers. Seasonal employee. In contrast, a seasonal employee is an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less, where the term "customary employment" refers to an employee who typically works each calendar year in approximately the same part of the year, such as summer or winter. The terms seasonal worker and seasonal employee are both used in the employer shared responsibility provisions but in two different contexts. Only the term seasonal worker is relevant for determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions; however, there is an exception for seasonal workers:
Exception: If your workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 during that period were seasonal workers, your organization is not considered an ALE.
For additional information on hiring seasonal workers and how it affects the employer shared responsibility provisions please call.

Deferred Tax on Gains from Forced Sales of Livestock

Farmers and ranchers who were forced to sell livestock due to drought may get extra time to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales. Here are some facts about this to help farmers understand how the deferral works and if they are eligible. 1. The one-year extension gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock. 2. The farmer or rancher must be in an applicable region. An applicable region is a county designated as eligible for federal assistance, as well as counties contiguous to that county. 3. The farmer’s county, parish, city or district included in the applicable region must be listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center. All or part of 41 states, plus the District of Columbia, are listed. 4. The relief applies to farmers who were affected by drought that happened between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018. 5. This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible. 6. To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance. 7. Farmers generally must replace the livestock within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period. Because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2014. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these areas, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2014 are also affected. For additional details, please contact the office.

IRS Relief for Taxpayers Affected by Hurricanes

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has declared a number of counties in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia disaster areas due to hurricanes Michael and Florence. Any area declared a major disaster as designated by FEMA qualifies for individual or public assistance. As such, individuals and residing or located in these counties are eligible for tax relief--including an extension to file beyond the October 15 deadline. Extended deadlines apply to filing returns, paying taxes, and performing certain other time-sensitive acts and taxpayers in these areas receive the extensions automatically. Furthermore, the IRS will work with any taxpayer (including workers assisting with relief activities with a recognized government or philanthropic organization) who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Tax relief for taxpayers living outside the disaster area should be aware that tax relief is not automatically granted. Please call the office or contact the IRS directly at 866-562-5227. The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on October 7, 2018. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until February 28, 2019, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This means individuals who had a valid extension to file their 2017 return due to run out on October 15, 2018, will now have until February 28, 2019, to file. The IRS noted, however, that because tax payments related to these 2017 returns were due on April 18, 2018, those payments are not eligible for this relief. The February 28, 2019, deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on January 15, 2019, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on October 31, 2018, and January 31, 2019. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis, that had a valid extension due to run out on November 15, 2018. Businesses with extensions also have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2017 extensions run out on October 15, 2018. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after October 7, 2018, and before October 22, 2018, will be abated as long as the deposits are made by October 22, 2018. Personal casualty losses attributable to certain 2018 federally declared disasters, including Hurricanes Michael and Florence, may be claimed as a qualified disaster loss.

How to Enter Bills in QuickBooks

You may have noticed recently that business bill-paying is undergoing a transition. While some paper bills still come via the U.S. Mail, you may also be getting some of those bills via email. Sometimes, you might get a reminder email, but then must go to the vendor's site to make a payment. How do you keep track of it all, so you don't miss any due dates? You could record them on a calendar, but you'd still have to go back to the actual bill to retrieve the amount. But where is it? Is it online, in your email inbox, in a file folder, or pinned to the corkboard on the wall? QuickBooks can organize this unpleasant process, saving time and helping you avoid confusion. Here's how it works.

A 2-Step Process

QuickBooks divides your accounts payable tasks into two separate processes: entering bills and paying them. It requires some extra time upfront as you complete the first step, but streamlines the second so that the actual bill-paying only takes a few seconds. To get started, click Enter Bills on QuickBooks' home page to open a window like this: Figure 1: Before you can pay a bill in QuickBooks, you need to create a record for it.  The toolbar for the Enter Bills window is not pictured in the image above, but you don't need it yet. Rather, you start by clicking the down arrow in the field next to VENDOR and selecting the biller's name from your list (or clicking if you haven't yet created a record for that entity). The ADDRESS should fill in automatically, as should the date. If you set up default payment TERMS in that vendor's record, your preference should show in that field and the BILL DUE date should be correct. Enter the AMOUNT DUE and complete any of the optional fields that the transaction requires (REF. NO.DISCOUNT DATE, and MEMO). Since this is a utility bill, the Expenses tab should be highlighted, and the amount you entered above should appear in it. Below that is the ACCOUNT field; open that list and choose the right one. Don't worry about the CUSTOMER:JOB and BILLABLE fields. These will only be completed when you're charging a customer for an expense or item. Warning: If you're not familiar with the concept of assigning accounts to transactions, please schedule some time one of the QuickBooks professionals at the office. This is a critical designation that affects so many other areas of QuickBooks.

Saving Your Work

Figure 2: The toolbar from the Enter Bills window.  Once you save your bill, you'll be able to access it when it's time to apply the payment. How will you remember when it's due, though? QuickBooks can remind you – or even pay it automatically. So, before you leave the Enter Bills window, click Memorize in the toolbar pictured above. The Memorize Transaction window will open with your vendor already entered in the Name field. You'll have three options here:
  • Add to my Reminders list. QuickBooks can add this bill to its list of Reminders. To ensure that you'll see this every time you open the software and can make any changes necessary, open the Edit menu and click Preferences | Reminders | My Preferences. Click in the box in front of Show Reminders List when opening a Company file. Then click the Company Preferences tab (if you're the administrator) and find the Bills to Pay row. Click the appropriate button to indicate whether you want QuickBooks to Show Summary or Show List, and enter the number of days before due date.
  • Do Not Remind Me. Just what it sounds like.
  • Automate Transaction Entry. You can only select this if the transaction will be exactly the same every time (except for the date). If the number of transactions will be limited, enter the Number Remaining. And tell QuickBooks how many Days in Advance To Enter.
Figure 3: If you choose the third option here, be very careful when you define the automation. You should really do this only if you're an advanced user.  When you're done, click OK to close the box, and save the bill. Next month, the second step will be discussed: the actual paying of bills. In the meantime, please call if you want to schedule a session to go over any aspect of your accounts payable – or anything else in QuickBooks.

Tax Due Dates for November 2018

Anytime

Employers - Income Tax Withholding. Ask employees whose withholding allowances will be different in 2019 to fill out a new Form W-4. The 2019 revision of Form W-4 will be available on the IRS website by mid-December.

November 13

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during October, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the third quarter of 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

November 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October. Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

October 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Avoiding an Unexpected Tax Bill

Tax withholding can be complicated, and with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) legislation, it's even more so since a number of tax provisions have changed. As such, it's important to make sure the right amount of tax is withheld for your particular tax situation. Many taxpayers have already adjusted their withholding, but for those with more complicated tax situations who have been putting it off, it's not too late. You should be aware, however, that the longer you wait, the fewer pay periods there are to withhold the necessary federal tax. In other words, more tax will have to be withheld from each remaining paycheck. Let's take a look at which taxpayers would benefit from a "paycheck checkup" right now to avoid an unexpected tax bill next year.

Taxpayers Receiving Large Refunds

Taxpayers who typically adjust their tax withholding so that they receive a large refund at tax time could be affected by tax law changes in the TCJA including reduced tax rates and significantly different tax brackets, as well as the removal of personal exemptions and doubling of the standard deduction. Adjusting tax withholding now will help taxpayers make sure the amount withheld is best for their particular tax situation--and avoid an unpleasant tax surprise next year.

High Income Taxpayers with Complex Returns

High-income taxpayers often find that itemizing instead of taking the standard deduction is more beneficial, but with the passage of tax reform legislation, that might no longer be the case. Taxpayers affected by any of the following tax changes should check and adjust their withholding as soon as possible:
  • Changes to tax rates and brackets.
  • Expansion of the child tax credit.
  • The standard deduction nearly doubled to $24,000 for joint filers and $12,000 for singles.
  • A $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local property, sales and income taxes.
  • New limits on deductions for some mortgage interest and home equity debt.
  • Higher limits on the percent of income a taxpayer can deduct as charitable contributions.
  • No deductions for miscellaneous expenses including investment expenses and unreimbursed employee expenses such as travel, meals, entertainment and uniforms.
It is especially important for those with high incomes and complex returns to review withholding because these taxpayers are often affected by more of these changes than people with simpler returns. This is also true if they also make quarterly estimated tax payments to cover other sources of income or are subject to the self-employment tax or alternative minimum tax.

Taxpayers with Dependents

In addition to expanding the Child Tax Credit, the TCJA added a new tax credit for parents or other qualifying relatives supporting a dependent age 17 or older at the end of 2018. This new tax credit – Credit for Other Dependents - is a non-refundable credit of up to $500 per qualifying person. This change, along with others, can affect a family's tax situation in 2018 and it's important to check and adjusted withholding amounts if necessary to prevent an unexpected tax bill and even penalties next year at tax time.
Tip: Families with qualifying children under the age of 17 should first review their eligibility for the expanded Child Tax Credit, which is larger. Taxpayers should also note that both credits begin to phase out at $400,000 of modified adjusted gross income for joint filers and $200,000 for other taxpayers.

Taxpayers Working in the Sharing Economy

Because the U.S. tax system operates on a pay-as-you-go basis, taxes must be paid on income as it is received rather than at the end of the year. Generally, people who are part of the sharing economy and who do not have an employer need to make sure they pay their taxes either through withholding from other jobs they may have or by making quarterly estimated tax payments to cover their tax obligations.

Taxpayers Owing Estimated Taxes

Underpayment of taxes is a common scenario with more than 10 million taxpayers facing a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax last year alone. Tax is typically withheld for most people who receive salaries, wages, pensions, unemployment compensation and the taxable part of Social Security benefits. However, with numerous changes to the tax system due to tax reform many taxpayers may need to adjust withholding on their paychecks or the amount of their estimated tax payments to help prevent penalties. While most income is subject to tax withholding, some income from self-employment or rental activities is not. Furthermore, individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, and S corporation shareholders, may need to make estimated tax payments unless they owe less than $1,000 when they file their tax return or they had no tax liability in the prior year (subject to certain conditions). As a reminder, in the U.S. taxes are required to be paid as income is earned or received during the year.

Retirees with Pension and Annuity Income

The TCJA also changed the way tax is calculated for retirees, many of whom have income from pensions and annuities. As such, retirees who receive a monthly pension or annuity check may need to raise or lower the amount of tax they pay during the year. Retirees should treat their pension similar to income from a job. Pension recipients that need to change their withholding can do so by filling out Form W-4P and submitting it to their payer. Retirees should submit Forms W-4P to their payers as soon as they can to give payers enough time to apply any changes to withholding to as many payments as possible this year.
Note: Because it is already November, some retirees may be unable to cover their expected tax liability through withholding, and could instead make estimated or additional tax payments directly to the IRS. Please call if you need more information about this option.

Questions about Withholding?

If you have any questions about Form W-4 or need to make adjustments to your withholding, don't hesitate to contact the office and speak to a tax professional you can trust.

Five Things to know before Starting a Business

Starting a new business is an exciting, but busy time with so much to be done and so little time to do it. Also, if you expect to have employees, there are a variety of federal and state forms and applications that will need to be completed to get your business up and running. That's where a tax professional can help. 1. Business Structure The first decision you will need to make is determining which business structure you will use. The most common types are a sole proprietor, partnership and corporation. The type of business you choose will determine which tax forms you file. 2. Employer Identification Number (EIN)  Securing an Employer Identification Number (also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number) is the first thing that needs to be done since many other forms require it. The IRS issues EINS to employers, sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, nonprofit associations, trusts, estates, government agencies, certain individuals, and other business entities for tax filing and reporting purposes.
Note: Even if you already have an EIN as a sole proprietor, for example, if you start a new business with a different business entity you will need to apply for a new EIN.
The fastest way to apply for an EIN is online through the IRS website or by telephone. Applying by fax and mail generally takes one to two weeks, and you can apply for one EIN per day. There is no cost to apply. 3. State Withholding, Unemployment, Sales, and other Business Taxes Once you have your EIN, you need to fill out forms to establish an account with the State for payroll tax withholding, Unemployment Insurance Registration, and sales tax collections (if applicable). Business taxes include income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax, and excise tax. Generally, the types of tax your business pays depends on the type of business structure. Keep in mind that you may also need to make estimated tax payments. 4. Payroll Record Keeping Payroll reporting and record keeping can be very time-consuming and costly, especially if it isn't handled correctly. Also, keep in mind, that almost all employers are required to transmit federal payroll tax deposits electronically. Personnel files should be kept for each employee and include an employee's employment application as well as the following:
  • Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Completed by the employee and used to calculate their federal income tax withholding. This form also includes necessary information such as address and Social Security number.
  • Form I-9 Employment. Eligibility Verification. Completed by the employer, to verify that employees are legally permitted to work in the U.S.
5. Employee Healthcare As an employer with employees, you may have certain healthcare requirements you need to comply with as well. If so, you should know about the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which helps small businesses (fewer than 25 employees who work full-time, or a combination of full-time and part-time) pay for health care coverage they offer their employees. The maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid for small business employers and 35 percent of premiums paid for small tax-exempt employers, such as charities. If you need help setting up or completing any tax-related paperwork needed for your business, don't hesitate to call.

Tax Considerations when Hiring Household Help

If you employ someone to work for you around your house, it is important to consider the tax implications of this type of arrangement. While many people disregard the need to pay taxes on household employees, they do so at the risk of paying stiff tax penalties down the road.

Who Is a Household Employee?

If a worker is your employee, it does not matter whether the work is full-time or part-time or that you hired the worker through an agency or from a list provided by an agency or association. It also does not matter whether you pay the worker on an hourly, daily or weekly basis or by the job. If the worker controls how the work is done, the worker is not your employee but is self-employed. A self-employed worker usually provides his or her own tools and offers services to the general public in an independent business. Also, if an agency provides the worker and controls what work is done and how it is done, the worker is not your employee.
Example: You pay Jane to babysit your child and do light housework four days a week in your home. Jane follows your specific instructions about household and childcare duties. You provide the household equipment and supplies that Jane needs to do her work. Jane is your household employee.
Example: You pay Roger to care for your lawn. Roger also offers lawn care services to other homeowners in your neighborhood. He provides his own tools and supplies, and he hires and pays any helpers he needs. Neither Roger nor his helpers are your household employees.

Can your Employee Legally Work in the United States?

When you hire a household employee to work for you on a regular basis, he or she must complete USCIS Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. It is your responsibility to verify that the employee is either a U.S. citizen or an alien who can legally work and then complete the employer part of the form. It is unlawful for you to knowingly hire or continue to employ a person who cannot legally work in the United States. Keep the completed form for your records. Do not return the form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Do You Need to Pay Employment Taxes?

If you have a household employee, you may need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, or you may need to pay federal unemployment tax or both. If you pay cash wages of $2,100 or more in 2018 to any one household employee, then you will need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Also, if you pay total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2017 or 2018 to household employees, you are also required to pay federal unemployment tax. If neither of these two contingencies applies, you do not need to pay any federal unemployment taxes; however, you may still need to pay state unemployment taxes. Please contact the office if you're not sure whether you need to pay state unemployment tax for your household employee. A tax professional will help you figure out whether you need to pay or collect other state employment taxes or carry workers' compensation insurance.
Note: If you do not need to pay Social Security, Medicare, or federal unemployment tax and do not choose to withhold federal income tax, the rest of this article does not apply to you.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes

Social Security taxes pays for old-age, survivor, and disability benefits for workers and their families. The Medicare tax pays for hospital insurance. Both you and your household employee may owe Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your share is 7.65 percent (6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax) of the employee's Social Security and Medicare wages. Your employee's share is 6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax. You are responsible for payment of your employee's share of the taxes as well as your own. You can either withhold your employee's share from the employee's wages or pay it from your own funds. Do not count wages you pay to any of the following individuals as Social Security and Medicare wages:
    1. Your spouse.
    2. Your child who is under age 21.
    3. Your parent.
Note: However, you should count wages to your parent if they are caring for your child and both of the following apply: (a) your child lives with you and is either under age 18 or has a physical or mental condition that requires the personal care of an adult for at least four continuous weeks in a calendar quarter; and (b) you are divorced and have not remarried, or you are a widow or widower, or you are married to and living with a person whose physical or mental condition prevents him or her from caring for your child for at least four continuous weeks in a calendar quarter.
    1. An employee who is under age 18 at any time during the year.
Note: However, you should count these wages to an employee under 18 if providing household services is the employee's principal occupation. If the employee is a student, providing household services is not considered to be his or her principal occupation.
Also, if your employee's Social Security and Medicare wages reach $128,400 in 2018, then do not count any wages you pay that employee during the rest of the year as Social Security wages to figure Social Security tax. You should, however, continue to count the employee's cash wages as Medicare wages to figure Medicare tax. Meals provided at your home for your convenience and lodging provided at your home for your convenience and as a condition of employment are not counted as wages As you can see, tax rules for hiring household employees are complex; therefore, professional tax guidance is highly recommended. This is definitely an area where it's better to be safe than sorry. If you have any questions at all, please contact the office to set up a consultation.

Choosing a Retirement Destination

With health care, housing, food, and transportation costs increasing every year, many retirees on fixed incomes wonder how they can stretch their dollars even further. One solution is to move to another state where income taxes are lower than the one in which they currently reside. But some retirees may be in for a surprise. While federal tax rates are the same in every state, retirees may find that even if they move to a state with no income tax, there may be additional taxes they're liable for including sales taxes, excise taxes, inheritance and estate taxes, income taxes, intangible taxes, and property taxes. In addition, states tax different retirement benefits differently. Retirees may have several types of retirement benefits such as pensions, social security, retirement plan distributions (which may or not be taxed by a particular state), and additional income from a job if they continue to work in order to supplement their retirement income. If you're thinking about moving to a different state when you retire, here are six things to consider before you make that move. 1. Income Tax Rates Retirees planning to work part-time in addition to receiving retirement benefits should keep in mind that those earnings may be subject to state tax in certain states, as well as federal income tax if your combined income (individual) is more than $25,000. Combined income is defined as your adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest plus 1/2 of your Social Security benefits. If you file a joint return, you may have to pay taxes if you and your spouse have a combined income that is more than $32,000. If you see this scenario in your future, it may be in your best interest to consider a state with low income tax rates (Pennsylvania, Arizona, or New Mexico for instance) or no income tax such as Florida, Nevada, Alaska, Washington state, or Wyoming. 2. Income Tax on Retirement Income Income tax on pension income varies for each state. Some states do not tax it at all. In other states, a portion of pension income is exempt, and still other states tax pension income in its entirety. Remember, however, that state tax laws, like federal tax laws, are always changing. Call if you have any questions about tax law changes in your state. 3. Tax on Social Security In 2018, thirteen states tax social security income in addition to taxing social security income at the federal level. Among them are Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia. 4. State and Local Property Taxes Despite a decline in property values, property taxes have not decreased for most homeowners. Some states, however, offer property tax exemptions to retirees who are homeowners and renters. Again, this varies by individual state. Please call if you have any questions about your state or the state to which you are planning to move. 5. State and Local Sales Taxes State and local sales taxes may or may not be a factor in the overall decision about where you decide to retire, but keep in mind that only five states, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, do not impose any sales or use tax. 6. Estate Taxes Estate tax may or may not matter, depending on your estate and whether you care about what happens to your estate after you die. Like other state taxes, estate tax varies depending on which state in which you reside. In fourteen states, there is a tax on estates below the federal threshold amount ($11.18 million in 2018). Hawaii uses the same threshold amount as the IRS when figuring federal estate tax, and New York will do so starting in 2019. Many states have no estate tax whatsoever including North Carolina, Delaware (repealed in 2018), Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

The bottom line

When it comes to retirees, relocating, and taxes there are a number of factors to consider-- including the overall tax burden. As you've read here, not all states are created equal. If you're thinking about retiring to another state, please contact the office and make an appointment with a tax professional who will help you figure out which state fits your particular circumstances.

Applying for Tax-Exempt Status as Nonprofit

If you're thinking of starting a nonprofit organization, there are a few things you should know before you get started. First, is understanding how nonprofits work under state and federal law. For example, two things you should understand is that state law governs nonprofit status. Nonprofit status is determined by an organization's articles of incorporation or trust documents while federal law governs tax-exempt status (i.e., exemption from federal income tax). Whether you're starting a charity, a social organization, or an association here are the steps you need to take before you can apply for tax-exempt status. 1. Determine the type of organization. Before a charitable organization can apply for tax-exempt status, it must determine whether it is a trust, corporation or association. Here is how each one is generally defined:
  • A trust is defined as a relationship in which one person holds title to property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another. It is formed under state law.
  • A corporation is formed under state law by the filing of articles of incorporation with the state. The state must generally date-stamp the articles before they are effective.
  • An association is a group of persons banded together for a specific purpose. To qualify under section 501(a) of the Code, the association must have a written document, such as articles of association, showing its creation. At least two persons must sign the document, which must be dated. The definition of an association can vary under state law.
2. Gather organization documents. Each application for exemption – except Form 1023-EZ – must be accompanied by an exact copy of the organization's organizing document, which is generally one of the following:
  • Articles of incorporation for a corporation
  • Articles of organization for a limited liability company
  • Articles of association or constitution for an association
  • Trust agreement or declaration of trust for a trust
Organizations that do not have an organizing document will not qualify for exempt status. If the organization's name has been legally changed by an amendment to its organizing documents, they should also attach an exact copy of that amendment to the application. State law generally determines whether an organization is properly created and establishes the requirements for organizing documents. 3. Understand state registration requirements Next, you will need to take a look at your state's registration requirements for nonprofits. State government websites have useful information for tax-exempt organizations such as tax information, registration requirements for charities, and information for employers. 4. Obtain Employer ID numbers. Finally, once your organization is legally formed you will need to obtain employer id numbers (EINs) for your new organization. Organizations can apply for an EIN online, by fax, or by mail using Form SS-4, Application for Employer I.D. Number. International applicants may apply by phone. Third parties can also receive an EIN on a client's behalf by completing the Third Party Designee section. Don't forget to have the client sign the form to avoid having to file a Form 2848, Power of Attorney, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization. One final thing to note, is that nearly all organizations are subject to automatic revocation of their tax-exempt status if they fail to file a required return or notice for three consecutive years. Once an organization applies for an EIN, the IRS presumes the organization is legally formed and the clock starts running on this three-year period. Questions about starting a nonprofit? Help is just a phone call away.

Early Withdrawals from Retirement Plans

Many people find themselves in situations where they need to withdraw money from their retirement plan earlier than planned. Doing so, however, can trigger an additional tax on top of any income tax taxpayers may have to pay. Here are five things taxpayers should know about early withdrawals from retirement plans: 1. Early Withdrawal. An early withdrawal normally is taking cash out of a retirement plan before the taxpayer is 59 1/2 years old. 2. Paying Additional Tax. If a taxpayer took an early withdrawal from a plan last year, they must report it to the IRS. They may have to pay income tax on the amount taken out. If it was an early withdrawal, they might have to pay an additional 10 percent tax. 3. Nontaxable Withdrawals. The additional 10 percent tax does not apply to nontaxable withdrawals. These include withdrawals of contributions that taxpayers paid tax on before they put them into the plan. A rollover is a form of nontaxable withdrawal. A rollover occurs when people take cash or other assets from one plan and put the money in another plan. They normally have 60 days to complete a rollover to make it tax-free. 4. Exceptions. There are many exceptions to the additional 10 percent tax. Some of the rules for retirement plans are different from the rules for IRAs. 5. Form 5329. If someone took an early withdrawal last year, they may have to file Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts, with their federal tax return. Please call if you have any questions about early withdrawals or filing Form 5329.

Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Florence

The IRS is offering tax relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. Currently, this only includes parts of North Carolina, but taxpayers in additional localities (and states) may be added to the disaster area later and will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. Taxpayers may call the office or visit the disaster relief page on the IRS website to check the current list of eligible localities. The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on September 7, 2018, in North Carolina. Businesses and individual taxpayers affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and elsewhere have until January 31, 2019, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments that were originally due during this period. These tax payments include quarterly estimated income tax payments due on September 17, 2018, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns that are normally due on September 30, 2018. Taxpayers who had a valid extension to file their 2017 return due to run out on October 15, 2018, will also have more time to file. Businesses with extensions also qualify for the additional time including those who were expected to file calendar-year partnerships (i.e., those whose 2017 extensions run out on September 17, 2018). Penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after September 7, 2018, and before September 24, 2018, will also be abated as long as the deposits are made by September. 24, 2018. The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated. Tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. If you have any questions or need assistance, don't hesitate to call.

Employer Reimbursements for Moving Expenses

For tax years prior to 2018, employees could exclude from income moving expenses reimbursed or paid by an employer. However, due to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) last year, this tax provision has been suspended starting this year. This means, that going forward, these amounts are considered taxable income with one exception: amounts reimbursed to active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces whose moves relate to a military-ordered permanent change of station. However, the IRS recently clarified that payments or reimbursements made by employers in 2018 for employees' moving expenses incurred in 2017 (or prior years) will be excluded from the employee's wages for income and employment tax purposes. This holds true if the employer pays a moving company in 2018 for qualified moving services provided to an employee prior to 2018 as well. To qualify, reimbursements or payments must be for work-related moving expenses that would have been deductible by the employee if the employee had directly paid them prior to January 1, 2018. That is, the employee must not have deducted them in 2017. Employers that have already treated reimbursements or payments as taxable should follow the normal employment tax adjustment and refund procedures. Please call the office if you have any questions about this topic.

Apps for Tracking Business Mileage

Every business owner, no matter how small, must keep good records. But whether it's keeping track of mileage, documenting expenses, or separating personal from business use, keeping up with paperwork is a seemingly never-ending job. No matter how good your intentions are in January, the chances are good that by now that paper mileage log is looking a bit empty. Even worse, you could be avoiding tracking your mileage altogether--and missing out on tax deductions and credits that could save your business money at tax time. The good news is that there are a number of phone applications (apps) that could help you track those pesky business miles. Most of these apps are useful for tracking and reporting expenses, mileage and billable time. They use GPS to track mileage, allow you to track receipts, choose the mileage type (i.e., business, personal), and produce formatted reports that are easy to generate and share with your CPA, EA, or tax advisor. Here are three popular apps that help you track your business mileage (and more): 1. TripLog - Mileage Log Tracker Works with: Android and iPhone What it does: Tracks vehicle mileage and locations using GPS Useful Features:
  • Automatic start when plugged into power or connected to a Bluetooth device and driving more than five mph
  • Reads your vehicle's odometer from OBD-II scan tools
  • Syncs data between the web service and multiple mobile devices
  • Supports commercial trucks including per diem allowance, state-by-state mileage for IFTA fuel tax reports, and DEF fuel purchases and gas mileage
2. MileIQ Works with: Android and iPhone What it does: Keeps track of mileage for business or personal use Useful Features:
  • Budget-friendly automatic mileage tracking
  • Easy to categorize trips - swipe right for business trips; swipe left for personal trips
  • Ability to create customized weekly mileage reports
  • Premium Office 365 subscribers can log unlimited drives every month.
3. Hurdlr Works with: Android and iPhone What it does: Tracks mileage, as well as expenses and income streams Useful Features:
  • Tracks business mileage using auto start and stop
  • View real-time finances, profits, and tax savings
  • Links to financial accounts, PayPal, Uber, and others
  • Creates financial reports and spreadsheets you can send to your CPA
If you have any questions about using apps that track business mileage or need help choosing the right one for your business needs, don't hesitate to call.

Taxpayers Challenging a Levy now have more Time

Due to tax reform legislation enacted in December, individuals and businesses now have two years to file an administrative claim or bring a civil action for wrongful levy or seizure. The Prior to tax reform the limit was nine months. Here are five facts about levies and the extension of time to file a claim or civil action: 1. An IRS levy permits the legal seizure and sale of property to satisfy a tax debt. For purposes of a levy, the term "property" includes wages, money in bank or other financial accounts, vehicles and real estate. 2. The time frames apply when the IRS has already sold the property it levied. Taxpayers can make an administrative claim for return of their property within two years of the date of the levy. 3. If an administrative claim is made within the extended two-year period, the two-year period for bringing suit is extended for one of two periods, whichever is shorter:
  • Twelve months from the date the person filed the claim.
  • Six months from the date the IRS disallowed the claim.
4. The change in law applies to levies made before, on or after December 22, 2017, as long as the previous nine-month period hadn't yet expired. 5. Anyone who receives an IRS bill titled, Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to A Hearing, should immediately contact the IRS. By doing so, a taxpayer may be able to make arrangements to pay the liability, instead of having the IRS proceed with the levy. Questions about IRS levies? Help is just a phone call away.

Extend QuickBooks' Usefulness with Add-Ons

What do you do when an application you are using stops meeting your growing needs in a specific area? You can: a.) find a workaround, b.) switch to different software, or, c.) resign yourself to living without that feature. Fortunately, QuickBooks offers a fourth option: d.) find an integrated add-on app that will work for you. With hundreds of these add-on apps available, it's likely you will find one that will do just what you need. Integrated add-on apps fall into several categories, ranging from billing and invoicing to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to inventory management to time-tracking. There are special versions designed to work with QuickBooks, and they require a monthly subscription fee. If you've never worked with integrated applications before (and even if you have), it is recommended that a QuickBooks professional get these set up and running for you since their operations can be confusing at first. Let's take a look at three of the most popular integrated add-on apps:

Expensify

From receipt tracking through reimbursement, Expensify automates the process of managing expense reports. You snap photos of receipts, and the site's built-in intelligence will read them and enter details like merchant, date, and price in the system's own forms. If you need to record vehicle mileage, Expensify can do that by using your smartphone's GPS. Other features include compatibility with global currencies and taxes; notifications of travel itinerary changes; "smart" receipt-auditing (ensuring that your expense policies are enforced); and direct deposit reimbursements. Figure 1: You can enter expenses manually in Expensify or take a photo with your phone. The site will read the receipt and transfer critical data to forms in the app.  The service offers three price levels for small business. For $5 per user/month, you get tools that enable basic expense approval and online reimbursements. A Corporate subscription gives you that, plus advanced policy support, corporate card reconciliation, and a multi-staged approval workflow, for $9 per user/month.

method:CRM

method:CRM was actually built exclusively for QuickBooks users. It expands on the customer management tools found in QuickBooks and supports two-way synchronization. You can see real-time customer, lead, and vendor data in either application; automate lead-collection and lead-tracking, and service customers far more efficiently than with QuickBooks alone. The application saves time by streamlining workflows and eliminating duplicate data entry, and its customer and vendor portals provide safe online spaces where you and your contacts can interact, view transactions and other information, and make payments. After a 30-day free trial, you can subscribe to one of two levels. The Contact Manager version ($28 per user/month or $25 if paid annually) offers everything except the ability to create QuickBooks sales transactions, accept online payments, and track your sales pipeline. These tools are included in CRM Pro ($49 per user/month or $44 if paid annually). Some services are available a la carte.

Bill.com

If you only process a couple of dozen bills and invoices every month, QuickBooks may be all you need. But if you have complex, transaction-heavy accounts receivables and payables that are difficult to track, you might want to consider Bill.com. A web-based application that integrates very well with QuickBooks, Bill.com is all about automation. It offers multiple ways to get your sales and expense documents into a digital format (scan, fax, email, smartphone photo) and then follows your directions as it routes them to the appropriate employees for approval. You'll make and receive payments electronically and always know where you stand with customers and vendors, thanks to a simple, understandable user interface and navigation scheme. Figure 2: Once you create approval policies within Bill.com, the application enforces them.  Pricing starts at $39 per user/month, which includes accounting software integration and your choice of payable or receivable support. You can get both for $59 per user/month – plus advanced automation and approver options.

Many More

There are hundreds of others, in more targeted areas like human resources, reporting, shipping, and e-commerce. You can search or browse through the library of solutions on the QuickBooks website If the integrated apps we described here sound too complicated for you, you may not need them. Or perhaps you do need them, but you're not sure you could master them easily. If so, contacting a QuickBooks pro from the office is the first step. First, they will determine whether you're using all of QuickBooks' own tools in the problem areas you have identified. Next, the QuickBooks pro will introduce you to all of the options in that category and help you get up and running. QuickBooks was designed for small business people, but that doesn't mean that you're going to understand all of its parts and how they work together instantly. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact the office for assistance.

Tax Due Dates for October 2018

October 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during September, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

October 15

Individuals - If you have an automatic 6-month extension to file your income tax return for 2017, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. Corporations - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension, Otherwise, see April 17, earlier. Employers Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September. Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

October 31

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File form 941 for the third quarter of 2018. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until November 13 to file the return. Certain Small Employers - Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2018 but less than $2,500 for the third quarter. Employers - Federal Unemployment Tax. Deposit the tax owed through September if more than $500. Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

September 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements

Small employer HRAs or QSEHRAs (Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements) allow small businesses without group health plans to set aside money, tax-free, for employees to use toward medical expenses--including the cost of buying health insurance. Here's what you need to know about QSEHRAs.

Background

Included in the 21st Century Cures Act enacted by Congress on December 13, 2016, was a provision for QSEHRAs, which permit an eligible employer to provide a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA), which is not a group health plan and thus is not subject to the requirements that apply to group health plans. QSEHRAs must meet several criteria such as:
  • the arrangement is funded solely by an eligible employer, and no salary reduction contributions may be made under the arrangement;
  • the arrangement generally is provided on the same terms to all eligible employees of the employer;
  • the arrangement provides, after the employee provides proof of coverage, for the payment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by the employee or the employee's family members; and
  • the amount of the payments and reimbursements for any year do not exceed $4,950 for employee-only arrangements or $10,000 for arrangements that provide for payments and reimbursements of expenses of family members. These amounts are adjusted for inflation annually for tax years after 2016. For 2018, the maximum dollar amount for employee-only arrangements is $5,050 ($4,950 in 2017). The maximum dollar amount for arrangements that provide for payments and reimbursements for expenses of family members is $10,250 ($10,050 in 2017).

Which Employers Qualify?

Any small employer from a startup to a nonprofit that doesn't offer a group health plan is able to set up a QSEHRA as long as they meet certain rules (see below). Small employers are defined as an employer that is not an applicable large employer (ALE). An applicable large employer is defined as one that employs more than 50 full-time workers, including full-time equivalent employees, on average.
Tip: If a small employer currently offers a group health plan but wants to set up a QSEHRA, the group health plan must be canceled before the QSEHRA will start.

Are there any other Rules?

Yes. One of the most important rules is that in order for employees to participate in a QSEHRA, they must have health insurance that meets minimum essential coverage. That is, indemnity, short-term health insurance, and faith-based insurance plans (e.g., Liberty HealthShare) do not qualify. Health insurance plans purchased through the Marketplace meet this qualification. Employers may choose whether to reimburse employees for both medical expenses and health insurance premiums or just premiums. Furthermore, while there are no minimum monthly contribution limits, there is an annual maximum contribution limit. For 2018, the limit is $420 per month for individuals and $854 per month for families.
Note: QSEHRAs are funded entirely by the employer. As such, employees are prohibited from making contributions.

Written Notice to Employees

Eligible employers are required to provide written notice to eligible employees at least 90 days before the beginning of a year for which the QSEHRA is provided. In the case of an employee who is not eligible to participate in the arrangement as of the beginning of the year, the written notice must be furnished on the date on which the employee is first eligible. The written notice must include:
  1. a statement of the amount that would be the eligible employee's permitted benefit under the arrangement for the year;
  2. a statement that the eligible employee should provide that permitted benefit amount to any health insurance exchange to which the employee applies for advance payments of the premium tax credit; and
  3. a statement that if the eligible employee is not covered under minimum essential coverage for any month, the employee may be liable for an individual shared responsibility payment (eliminated for tax years starting in 2019) for that month and reimbursements under the arrangement may be includible in gross income.

Questions about QSEHRAs?

If you have any questions about QSEHRAs or are wondering whether your small business would benefit from a QSEHRA, don't hesitate to call.

October 1 Deadline for Establishing SIMPLE IRA Plans

Of all the retirement plans available to small business owners, the SIMPLE IRA plan (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) is the easiest to set up and the least expensive to manage. The catch is that you'll need to set it up by October 1st. Here's what you need to know.

What is a SIMPLE IRA Plan?

SIMPLE IRA Plans are intended to encourage small business employers to offer retirement coverage to their employees. Self-employed business owners are able to contribute both as employee and employer, with both contributions made from self-employment earnings. In addition, if living expenses are covered by your day job (or your spouse's job), you would be free to put all of your sideline earnings, up to the ceiling, into SIMPLE IRA plan retirement investments.

How does a SIMPLE IRA Plan Work?

A SIMPLE IRA plan is easier to set up and operate than most other plans in that contributions go into an IRA you set up. Requirements for reporting to the IRS and other agencies are minimal as well. Your plan's custodian, typically an investment institution, has the reporting duties and the process for figuring the deductible contribution is a bit easier than with other plans. SIMPLE IRA plans calculate contributions in two steps:
1. Employee out-of-salary contribution The limit on this "elective deferral" is $12,500 in 2018, after which it can rise further with the cost of living. Catch-up. Owner-employees age 50 or older can make an additional $3,000 deductible "catch-up" contribution (for a total of $15,500) as an employee in 2018. 2. Employer "matching" contribution The employer match equals a maximum of three percent of employee's earnings.
Example: An owner-employee age 50 or over in 2018 with self-employment earnings of $40,000 could contribute and deduct $12,500 as employee plus an additional $3,000 employee catch up contribution, plus a $1,200 (3 percent of $40,000) employer match, for a total of $16,700.

Are there any Downsides to SIMPLE IRA Plans?

Because investments are through an IRA you must work through a financial institution acting, which acts as the trustee or custodian. As such, you are not in direct control and will generally have fewer investment options than if you were your own trustee, as is the case with a 401(k). You also cannot set up the SIMPLE IRA plan after the calendar year ends and still be able to take advantage of the tax benefits on that year's tax return, as is allowed with Simplified Employee Pension Plans, or SEPs. Generally, to make a SIMPLE IRA plan effective for a year, it must be set up by October 1 of that year. A later date is allowed only when the business is started after October 1, and the SIMPLE IRA plan must be set up as soon as it is administratively feasible. Furthermore, once self-employment earnings become significant other retirement plans may be more advantageous than a SIMPLE IRA retirement plan.
Example: If you are under 50 with $50,000 of self-employment earnings in 2018, you could contribute $12,500 as employee to your SIMPLE IRA plan plus an additional 3 percent of $50,000 as an employer contribution, for a total of $14,000. In contrast, a 401(k) plan would allow a $31,000 contribution.With $100,000 of earnings, the total for a SIMPLE IRA Plan would be $15,500 and $43,500 for a 401(k).
If the SIMPLE IRA plan is set up for a sideline business and you're already vested in a 401(k) in another business or as an employee the total amount you can put into the SIMPLE IRA plan and the 401(k) combined (in 2018) can't be more than $18,500 or $24,000 if catch-up contributions are made to the 401(k) by someone age 50 or over. So, someone under age 50 who puts $9,000 in her 401(k) can't put more than $9,500 in her SIMPLE IRA plan for 2018. The same limit applies if you have a SIMPLE IRA plan while also contributing as an employee to a 403(b) annuity (typically for government employees and teachers in public and private schools).

How to Get Started Setting up a SIMPLE IRA Plan

You can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan account on your own; however, most people turn to financial institutions. SIMPLE IRA Plans are offered by the same financial institutions that offer any other IRAs and 401(k) plans. You can expect the institution to give you a plan document and an adoption agreement. In the adoption agreement, you will choose an "effective date," which is the start date for payments out of salary or business earnings. Again, that date can't be later than October 1 of the year you adopt the plan, except for a business formed after October 1. Another key document is the Salary Reduction Agreement, which briefly describes how money goes into your SIMPLE IRA plan. You need such an agreement even if you pay yourself business profits rather than salary. Printed guidance on operating the SIMPLE IRA plan may also be provided. You will also be establishing a SIMPLE IRA plan account for yourself as participant.

Ready to Explore Retirement Plan Options for your Small Business?

SIMPLE IRA Plans are an excellent choice for home-based businesses and ideal for full-time employees or homemakers who make a modest income from a sideline business and work well for small business owners who don't want to spend a lot of time and pay high administration fees associated with more complex retirement plans. If you are a business owner interested in discussing retirement plan options for your small business, don't hesitate to contact the office today.

2018 Inflation Adjustments Updated under Tax Reform

Tax year 2018 annual inflation adjustments have been updated to reflect changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). These tax year 2018 adjustments are generally used on tax returns filed in 2019. The tax items affected by TCJA for tax year 2018 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following: The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $24,000. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,000; for heads of households, $18,000. The TCJA reduced the personal exemption. The personal exemption for tax year 2018 is $0. TCJA reduced tax rates for many taxpayers. The new tax rates are: 10 percent, 12 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent, 32 percent, 35 percent and a top rate of 37 percent. For tax year 2018, the highest tax rate will apply to married individuals filing jointly and surviving spouses with taxable incomes over $600,000, to single taxpayers and heads of households with incomes over $500,000, and to married taxpayers filing separately with incomes over $300,000. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT exemption amount for tax year 2018 is greatly increased under TCJA. For tax year 2018, the exemption amount for single taxpayers is $70,300 and begins to phase out at $500,000, and the exemption amount for married couples filing jointly is $109,400 and begins to phase out at $1 million. Estates. For estates of any decedent passing away in calendar year 2018, the basic exclusion amount is $11,180,000. Certain items had minor adjustments. TCJA requires a different method for adjusting for inflation. Foreign earned income exclusion. For 2018, the foreign earned income exclusion will be $103,900. Earned Income Credit. The maximum earned income credit amount will be $6,431 for taxpayers with 3 or more qualifying children, for 2018. Other earned income credit amounts are detailed in Revenue Procedure 2018-18. Medical Savings Accounts. For tax year 2018, participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,300, but not more than $3,450. For self-only coverage, the maximum out-of-pocket expense amount is $4,550. For tax year 2018, participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,550; however, the deductible cannot be more than $6,850. For family coverage, the out-of-pocket expense limit is $8,400 for tax year 2018.

Items not affected by the TCJA

The dollar amounts for the following items remain unchanged under the new method for adjusting for inflation required by the TCJA:
  • For tax year 2018, the annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000.
  • For tax year 2018, the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit is $260, as is the monthly limitation for qualified parking.
  • For tax year 2018, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $114,000.
  • For calendar year 2018, the dollar amount used to determine the penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage is $695.
Questions about tax reform? Help is just a phone call away.

Succession Planning: Strategies for Leaving a Business

Selecting your business successor is a fundamental objective of planning an exit strategy, but it requires a careful assessment of what you want from the sale of your business and who can best give it to you. There are four ways to leave your business: transfer ownership to family members, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), sale to a third party, and liquidation. The more you understand about each one, the better the chance is that you will leave your business on your terms and under the conditions you want. With that in mind, here's what you need to know about each one.

1. Transfer Ownership to your Children

Transferring a business within the family fulfills many people's personal goals of keeping their business and family together, but while most business owners want to transfer their business to their children, few end up doing so for various reasons. As such, it's necessary to develop a contingency plan to convey your business to another type of buyer. Transferring your business to your children can provide financial well-being for younger family members unable to earn comparable income from outside employment, as well as allow you to stay actively involved in the business with your children until you choose your departure date. It also affords you the luxury of selling the business for whatever amount of money you need to live on, even if the value of the business does not justify that sum of money. On the other hand, this option also holds the potential to increase family friction, discord, and feelings of unequal treatment among siblings. Parents often feel the need to treat all of their children equally. In reality, this is difficult to achieve. In most cases, one child will probably run or own the business at the perceived expense of the others. At the same time, financial security also may be diminished, rather than enhanced, and the very existence of the business is at risk if it's transferred to a family member who can't or won't run it properly. In addition, family dynamics, in general, may also significantly diminish your control over the business and its operations.

2. Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP)

If your children have no interest or are unable to take over your business, there is another option to ensure the continued success of your business: the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). ESOPs are qualified retirement plans subject to the regulatory requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). There's one important difference, however; the majority (more than half) of their investment must be derived from their own company stock. Whether it's due to lack of interest from your children, an economic downturn or a high asking price that no one is willing to pay, what an ESOP does is create a third-party buyer (your employees) where none previously existed. After all, who more than your employees has a vested interest in your company? ESOPs are set up as a trust (complete with trustees) into which either cash to buy company stock or newly issued stock is placed. Contributions the company makes to the trust are generally tax deductible, subject to certain limitations and because transactions are considered stock sales, the owner who is selling (you) can avoid paying capital gains. Shares are then distributed to employees (typically based on compensation levels) and grow tax-free until distribution. If your company is a stable, well-established one with steady, consistent earnings, then an ESOP might be just the ticket to creating a winning exit plan from your business. If you have any questions about setting up an ESOP for your business, give the office a call today.

3. Sale to a Third Party

In a retirement situation, a sale to a third party too often becomes a bargain sale--and the only alternative to liquidation. But if the business is well prepared for sale, this option just might be your best way to cash out. In fact, you may find that this so-called "last resort" strategy just happens to land you at the resort of your choice. Although many owners don't realize it, most or all of your money should come from the business at closing. Therefore, the fundamental advantage of a third party sale is immediate cash or at least a substantial upfront portion of the selling price. This ensures that you obtain your fundamental objectives of financial security and, perhaps, avoid risk as well. If you do not receive the bulk of the purchase price in cash, at closing, however, your risk will suddenly become immense. You will place a substantial amount of the money you counted on receiving in the unpredictable hands of fate. The best way to avoid this risk is to get all of the money you are going to need at closing. This way any outstanding balance payable to you is "icing on the cake."

4. Liquidation

If there is no one to buy your business, you shut it down. In liquidation, the owners sell off their assets, collect outstanding accounts receivable, pay off their bills, and keep what's left, if anything, for themselves. The primary reason liquidation is considered as an exit plan is that a business lacks sufficient income-producing capacity apart from the owner's direct efforts and apart from the value of the assets themselves. For example, if the business can produce only $75,000 per year and the assets themselves are worth $1 million, no one would pay more for the business than the value of the assets. Service businesses, in particular, are thought to have little value when the owner leaves the business. Since most service businesses have little "hard value" other than accounts receivable, liquidation produces the smallest return for the owner's lifelong commitment to the business. Smart owners guard against this. They plan ahead to ensure that they do not have to rely on this last ditch method to fund their retirement. If you need assistance figuring out which exit strategy is best for you and your business, please don't hesitate to call. The sooner you start planning, the easier it will be.

Five Ways to Minimize your Tax Liability

If you want to save money on your tax bill next year, consider using one or more of these tax-saving strategies that reduce your income, lower your tax bracket, and minimize your tax bill.

1. Max out your 401(k) or Contribute to an IRA

You've heard it before, but it's worth repeating because it's one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of saving money for your retirement. Many employers offer plans where you can elect to defer a portion of your salary and contribute it to a tax-deferred retirement account. For most companies, these are referred to as 401(k) plans. For many other employers, such as universities, a similar plan called a 403(b) is available. Check with your employer about the availability of such a plan and contribute as much as possible to defer income and accumulate retirement assets. If you have income from wages or self-employment income, you can build tax-sheltered investments by contributing to a traditional (pre-tax contributions) or a Roth IRA (after-tax contributions). You may also be able to contribute to a spousal IRA even when your spouse has little or no earned income.

2. Take Advantage of Employer Benefit Plans

Medical and dental expenses are generally only deductibles to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2018 (rising to 10% in 2019). For many individuals, particularly those with high income, this could eliminate the possibility for a deduction. However, you can effectively get a deduction for these items if your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account or FSA (sometimes called a cafeteria plan). These plans permit you to redirect a portion of your salary to pay these types of expenses with pre-tax dollars. Another such arrangement is a Health Savings Account (HSA). Ask your employer if they provide either of these plans.

3. Bunch your Itemized Deductions

Certain itemized deductions, such as medical or employment-related expenses, are only deductible if they exceed a certain amount. It may be advantageous to delay payments in one year and prepay them in the next year to bunch the expenses in one year. This way you stand a better chance of getting a deduction.

4. Use the Gift-Tax Exclusion to Shift Income

In 2018, you can give away $15,000 ($30,000 if joined by a spouse) per donee, per year without paying federal gift tax. And, you can give $15,000 to as many donees as you like. The income on these transfers will then be taxed at the donee's tax rate, which is in many cases lower.
Note: Special rules apply to children under age 18. Also, if you directly pay the medical or educational expenses of the donee, such gifts will not be subject to gift tax. For gift tax purposes, contributions to Qualified Tuition Programs (Section 529) are treated as completed gifts even though the account owner has the right to withdraw them. As such, they qualify for the up-to-$15,000 annual gift tax exclusion in 2018. One contributing more than $15,000 may elect to treat the gift as made in equal installments over the year of the gift and the following four years so that up to $60,000 can be given tax-free in the first year.

5. Consider Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds

Interest on state or local municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal income tax and from tax by the issuing state or locality. For that reason, interest paid on such bonds is somewhat less than that paid on commercial bonds of comparable quality. However, for individuals in higher brackets, the interest from municipal bonds will often be greater than from higher paying commercial bonds after reduction for taxes. Gain on sale of municipal bonds is taxable, and loss is deductible. Tax-exempt interest is sometimes an element in the computation of other tax items. Interest on loans to buy or carry tax-exempts is non-deductible.

Documentation - Keep Good Records

Unfortunately, many taxpayers forgo worthwhile tax credits and deductions because they have neglected to keep proper receipts or records. Keeping adequate records is required by the IRS for employee business expenses, deductible travel and entertainment expenses, and charitable gifts and travel, and more. But don't do it just because the IRS says so. Neglecting to track these deductions can lead to overlooking them as well. You also need to maintain records regarding your income. If you receive a large tax-free amount, such as a gift or inheritance, make certain to document the item so that the IRS does not later claim that you had unreported income. If you're ready to save money on your taxes this year but aren't sure which tax-saving strategies apply to your financial situation, don't hesitate to call.

Extension Deadline Looming for 2017 Tax Returns

Time is running short for taxpayers who requested an extra six months to file their 2017 tax return. As a reminder, Monday, October 15, 2018, is the extension deadline for most taxpayers. For taxpayers who have not yet filed, here are a few tips to keep in mind about the extension deadline and taxes: 1. Taxpayers can still e-file returns. Filing electronically is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file taxes. 2. For taxpayers owed a refund, the fastest way to get it is to combine direct deposit and e-file. 3. Taxpayers who owe taxes should consider using IRS Direct Pay, a simple, quick and free way to pay from a checking or savings account using a computer or mobile device. There are also other online payment options. Please call the office if you need details about other payment options. 4. Members of the military and those serving in a combat zone generally get more time to file. Military members typically have until at least 180 days after leaving a combat zone to both file returns and pay any tax due. 5. Taxpayers should always keep a copy of tax returns for their records. Keeping copies of tax returns can help taxpayers prepare future tax returns or assist with amending a prior year’s return.

529 Education Savings Plan Updates under Tax Reform

Taxpayers with school-age children should be aware of three recent tax law changes affecting 529 education savings plans. Tuition refunds The PATH Act change added a special rule for a beneficiary of a 529 plan, usually a student, who receives a refund of tuition or other qualified education expenses. This can occur when a student drops a class mid-semester. If the beneficiary re-contributes the refund to any of his or her 529 plans within 60 days, the refund is tax-free. The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to issue future regulations simplifying the tax treatment of these transactions. Re-contributions would not count against the plan's contribution limit. K-12 education One of the TCJA changes allows distributions from 529 plans to be used to pay up to a total of $10,000 of tuition per beneficiary (regardless of the number of contributing plans) each year at an elementary or secondary (k-12) public, private or religious school of the beneficiary’s choosing. Rollovers to an ABLE account The second TCJA change allows funds to be rolled over from a designated beneficiary's 529 plan to an ABLE account for the same beneficiary or a family member. ABLE accounts are tax-favored accounts for certain people who become disabled before age 26, designed to enable these people and their families to save and pay for disability-related expenses. The regulations would provide that rollovers from 529 plans, together with any contributions made to the designated beneficiary's ABLE account (other than certain permitted contributions of the designated beneficiary's compensation) cannot exceed the annual ABLE contribution limit -- $15,000 for 2018. For more information about 529 education savings plans please contact the office.

Taxpayer Data Secure with new IRS Get Transcript

Taxpayers that need prior years' tax returns and other tax documents should know that there is a new format for individual tax transcripts that redacts personally identifiable information from Form 1040 tax documents. This new transcript replaces the previous format and will be the default format available via Get Transcript Online, Get Transcript by Mail or the Transcript Delivery System for tax professionals as of September 23. Financial entries will remain visible, which will give taxpayers and third-parties the data they need for tax preparation or income verification. There is also a new IRS Customer File Number that lenders, colleges and other third parties that order transcripts for non-tax purposes can use as an identifying number instead of the taxpayer's SSN. The new tax transcript was created in response to criminal activity that made it a sought-after document whereby criminals attempt to pose as taxpayers accessing their own account or as tax preparers or third parties requesting client information. The following information will be provided on the new transcript:
  • Last 4 digits of any SSN listed on the transcript: XXX-XX-1234
  • Last 4 digits of any EIN listed on the transcript: XX-XXX-1234
  • Last 4 digits of any account or telephone number
  • First 4 characters of the last name for any individual
  • First 4 characters of a business name
  • First 6 characters of the street address, including spaces
  • All money amounts, including balance due, interest and penalties
An updated Form 4506-T and Form 4506T-EZ, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, will be available on September 23, that will have a new Line 5b for a 10-digit Customer File Number. Legitimate third parties with a need for income verification or tax data often request taxpayers complete a Form 4506-T. As of September 23, third parties or taxpayers can create any 10-digit number, except for the taxpayer's SSN, for use as an identifier. The Customer File Number listed on the 4506-T automatically will be posted and visible on the requested tax transcript, allowing the third party to match the document to the taxpayer. A Customer File Number can be, for example, a loan account number. Line 5b is an optional line, intended for those third parties that request high volumes of transcripts. There is no change in the process for students seeking income verification through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or disaster victims seeking FEMA assistance. Nor will business tax transcripts change.

Ten Tax Tips for Individuals Selling a Home this Year

In most cases, gains from sales are taxable. But did you know that if you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes? Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year. 1. Exclusion of Gain. You may be able to exclude part or all of the gain from the sale of your home. This rule may apply if you meet the eligibility test. Parts of the test involve your ownership and use of the home. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale. 2. Exceptions May Apply. There are exceptions to the ownership, use, and other rules. One exception applies to persons with a disability. Another applies to certain members of the military. That rule includes certain government and Peace Corps workers. For more information about these exceptions, please call the office. 3. Exclusion Limit. The most gain you can exclude from tax is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain. 4. May Not Need to Report Sale. If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return. 5. When You Must Report the Sale. You must report the sale on your tax return if you can't exclude all or part of the gain. You must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That's also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions. If you report the sale, you may need to pay the Net Investment Income Tax. Please call the office for assistance on this topic. 6. Exclusion Frequency Limit. Generally, you may exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years. Some exceptions may apply to this rule. 7. Only a Main Home Qualifies. If you own more than one home, you may only exclude the gain on the sale of your main home. Your main home usually is the home that you live in most of the time. 8. First-time Homebuyer Credit. If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit when you bought the home, special rules apply to the sale. For more on those rules, please call. 9. Home Sold at a Loss. If you sell your main home at a loss, you can't deduct the loss on your tax return. 10. Report Your Address Change. After you sell your home and move, update your address with the IRS. To do this, file Form 8822, Change of Address. You can find the address to send it to in the form's instructions on page two. If you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Questions? Help is just a phone call away.

Tips for Taxpayers: Be Prepared for Natural Disasters

While September and October are prime time for Atlantic hurricanes, natural disasters of any kind can strike at any time. As such, it's a good idea for taxpayers to think about - and plan ahead for - what they can do to be prepared. Here’s what taxpayers should keep in mind: 1. Update emergency plans. Because a disaster can strike any time, taxpayers should review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, they should update plans accordingly. They should also tell employees about the changes. Individuals and businesses should make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them. 2. Create electronic copies of key documents. Taxpayers should keep a duplicate set of key documents in a safe place, such as in a waterproof container and away from the original set. Key documents include bank statements, tax returns, identification documents, and insurance policies. Doing so is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original documents are provided only on paper, these can be scanned into a computer. This way, the taxpayer can download them to a storage device like an external hard drive or USB flash drive. 3. Document valuables. It's a good idea for a taxpayer to photograph or videotape the contents of their home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim any available insurance and tax benefits after the disaster strikes. How to Obtain a Copy of a Tax Return Taxpayers who need a copy of their prior-year tax return have several options. If they:
  • Went to a paid preparer, they might be able to get a copy of last year's tax return from that preparer.
  • Used the same tax preparation software this year that they used last year, that software will likely have their prior-year tax return.
  • Didn't use the same tax preparation software this year, they may be able to return to their prior-year software and view an electronic copy of that return.
How to Get a Transcript Taxpayers who are unable to access prior-year tax return using the above methods can get a copy of their transcript by calling the office directly or going to IRS.gov and using the Get Transcript application. By selecting "Get Transcript Online," the taxpayer can immediately view, print or download their transcript. If they prefer to have a copy sent to the address that the IRS has on file, they can select "Get Transcript by Mail." They should receive their transcript in the mail in five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives their request online.

How to Use Memorized Transactions in QuickBooks

Last month's QuickBooks article explored the benefits of having QuickBooks on your desktop. Among those listed were three that impact every business. To recap, QuickBooks helps you:
  • Save time.
  • Save money.
  • Minimize errors.
There are numerous examples that could be used to illustrate how this software accomplishes this but for this month the topic is using memorized transactions. These are templates you set up that contain most if not all the information that could be repeated at specified intervals, eliminating the need for you to enter the same repetitive data regularly and reducing the chances that you'll make a mistake. You can create these transaction "models" for both sale and purchase transactions. For example, you might have wireless service bills that remain the same every month or vary by just a bit, or you have customers who have monthly standing orders for the same products, services, or subscription fees. QuickBooks makes it very easy to set up transactions for repetitive use, and you'll see how it works in more detail below. We recommend you use one of QuickBooks' sample files for this tutorial.

Creating a Template

Let's start by creating a repeating bill. Click Enter Bills on the home page and complete all the fields that will remain the same every time the bill is created. In our example, we're paying a utility bill whose Amount Due will change every month, so we're leaving that blank. When you're done, click Memorize in the toolbar to open this window: Figure 1: Once you've created a transaction template, you'll have to complete the fields in this window to memorize it correctly. The vendor name appears automatically in a field in the upper left. Below that is a list of four options. These have to do with how/if you want to be notified when it's time to process a memorized transaction. Your choices are:
  • Add to my Reminders List. QuickBooks will display an entry in your Reminders Listfor each memorized transaction. Not using Reminders? Please call.
  • Do Not Remind Me. Nothing will be done.
  • Automate Transaction Entry. You would only select this option if nothing but the date of the transaction changes when it recurs. QuickBooks would automatically process and dispatch the transaction.
  • Add to Group. If you have multiple recurring transactions that come due at the same time, you can create Groups and assign transactions to them (more on this later).
On the right side of the window, open the drop-down list in the field next to How Often and select from the options provided. Click the calendar icon to choose the transaction's Next (Due) Date. If you only want QuickBooks to automate the entry a specific number of times, add that in the field next to Number Remaining. Then enter the Days In Advance To Enter.

Further Explanation Needed

Let's expand on two of the concepts discussed here. First, advance notice for transactions. If you've selected Add to my Reminders List for any memorized transactions, you need to tell QuickBooks how far in advance your reminders should start to appear. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Reminders. Figure 2: If you want Reminders for memorized transactions, you'll need to tell QuickBooks what your Preferences are. Memorized Transactions Due appears toward the bottom of the Company Preferenceslist. Click on the appropriate button to indicate whether you want to see a summary or a list in your Reminders (or nothing at all) and how many days in advance the alert should appear. Next, Groups. As mentioned earlier, you can combine memorized transactions due at the same time within a group. To create one, go to Lists | Memorized Transaction List. Click the arrow next to Memorized Transaction in the lower left, then click New Group and give it a name. Choose from the options available for notification and click OK. Now you can add memorized transactions to this Group by right-clicking on it, selecting Edit Memorized Transaction, and clicking in the button next to Add to Group. Click the down area to the right of the field assigned to Group Name and select the one you just created. Figure 3: You can add memorized transactions to a Group and process them at the same time.

Caution Advised

This particular QuickBooks feature has been shared with you because software like this can save time and minimize errors. There are many other features that can help you as well, so don't hesitate to call if you would like to learn more about them. The mechanics of creating memorized transactions are fairly simple. But mistakes can be costly in terms of bills that don't get paid on time (or at all) and items or services that don't get invoiced. If you're new to QuickBooks, call for assistance as working on your own could be tricky. Even if you're a seasoned user, you may want help setting up memorized transactions for the first time. Please contact the office if you need assistance with this or any other element of QuickBooks accounting. Help is just a phone call away.

Tax Due Dates for September 2018

September 10

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

September 17

Individuals - Make a payment of your 2018 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment date for estimated tax in 2018. Partnerships - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1. S corporations - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) or a substitute Schedule K-1. Electing Large Partnerships - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065-B) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension. Otherwise, see March 15. Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065-B) or a substitute Schedule K-1. Corporations - Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2018. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you make an estimate of your tax for the year. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August. Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

August 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Safeguarding Financial Records

Natural disasters such as hurricanes are more common in summer, but tornadoes, floods, and fires can strike at any time. As such, it's always a good idea to plan for what to do in case of a disaster. Here are some basic steps you can take right now to prepare: 1. Backup Records Electronically. Many people receive bank statements by email. This is a good way to secure your records. You can also scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You can use an external hard drive, CD or DVD to store important records. Be sure you back up your files and keep them in a safe place. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve your records. 2. Document Valuables. Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. 3. Update Emergency Plans. Review your emergency plans every year. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs, so update them when your situation changes. Make sure you have a way to get severe weather information and have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches. In addition, when employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. 4. Get Copies of Tax Returns or Transcripts. Use Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns or need information from your return. You can also file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. If you need assistance filling this form out, please call. 5. Check on Fiduciary Bonds. Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider. If you fall victim to a disaster, Help is just a phone call away. Don't hesitate to call the office regarding any disaster-related tax questions or issues you might have.

Small Business Financing: Securing a Loan

At some point, most small businesses owners will visit a bank or other lending institution to borrow money. Understanding what your bank wants, and how to properly approach them, can mean the difference between getting your money for expansion and having to scrape through finding cash from other sources. Unfortunately, many business owners fall victim to several common, but potentially destructive myths regarding financing, such as:
  • Lenders are eager to provide money to small businesses.
  • Banks are willing sources of financing for start-up businesses.
  • When it comes to seeking money, the company speaks for itself.
  • A bank, is a bank, is a bank, and all banks are the same.
  • Banks, especially large ones, do not need and really do not want the business of a small firm.

Understand the basic principles of banking.

It's vital to present yourself as a trustworthy businessperson, dependable enough to repay borrowed money and demonstrate that you understand the basic principles of banking. Your chances of receiving a loan will greatly improve if you can see your proposal through a banker's eyes and appreciate the position that they are coming from. Banks have a responsibility to government regulators, depositors, and the community in which they reside. While a bank's cautious perspective may be irritating to a small business owner, it is necessary in order to keep the depositors' money safe, the banking regulators happy, and the economic health of the community growing.

Each banking institution is different.

Banks differ in the types of financing they make available, interest rates charged, willingness to accept risk, staff expertise, services offered, and in their attitude toward small business loans. Selection of a bank is essentially limited to your choices from the local community. Typically, banks outside of your area of business are not as anxious to make loans to your firm because of the higher costs of checking credit and of collecting the loan in the event of default. Furthermore, a bank will typically not make business loans to any size business unless a checking account or money market account is maintained at that institution. Ultimately your task is to find a business-oriented bank that will provide the financial assistance, expertise, and services your business requires now and is likely to require in the future. If you need assistance deciding which bank best suits your needs and provides the greatest value for your business operation, don't hesitate to call the office.

Build rapport with your banker.

Building a favorable climate for a loan request should begin long before the funds are actually needed. The worst possible time to approach a new bank is when your business is in the throes of a financial crisis. Devote time and effort to building a background of information and goodwill with the bank you choose and get to know the loan officer you will be dealing with early on. Bankers are essentially conservative lenders with an overriding concern for minimizing risk. Logic dictates that this is best accomplished by limiting loans to businesses they know and trust. One way to build rapport and establish trust is to take out small loans, repay them on schedule, and meet all requirements of the loan agreement in both letter and spirit. By doing so, you gain the banker's trust and loyalty, and he or she will consider your business a valued customer and make it easier for you to obtain future financing.

Provide the information your banker needs to lend you money.

Lending is the essence of the banking business and making mutually beneficial loans is as important to the success of the bank as it is to the small business. This means that understanding what information a loan officer seeks--and providing the evidence required to ease normal banking concerns--is the most effective approach to getting what is needed. A sound loan proposal should contain information that expands on the following points:
  • What is the specific purpose of the loan?
  • Exactly how much money is required?
  • What is the exact source of repayment for the loan?
  • What evidence is available to substantiate the assumptions that the expected source of repayment is reliable?
  • What alternative source of repayment is available if management's plans fail?
  • What business or personal assets, or both, are available to collateralize the loan?
  • What evidence is available to substantiate the competence and ability of the management team?
Even a brief examination of these points suggests the need for you to do your homework before making a loan request because an experienced loan officer will ask probing questions about each of them. Failure to anticipate these questions or providing unacceptable answers is damaging evidence that you may not completely understand the business and are incapable of planning for your firm's needs.

Before you apply for a loan here's what you should do:

1. Write a Business Plan Your loan request should be based on and accompanied by a complete business plan. This document is the single most important planning activity that you can perform. A business plan is more than a device for getting financing; it is the vehicle that makes you examine, evaluate, and plan for all aspects of your business. A business plan's existence proves to your banker that you are doing all the right activities. Once you've put the plan together, write a two-page executive summary. You'll need it if you are asked to send "a quick write-up." 2. Have an accountant prepare historical financial statements. You can't talk about the future without accounting for your past. Internally generated statements are OK, but your bank wants the comfort of knowing an independent expert has verified the information. In addition, you must understand your statement and be able to explain how your operation works and how your finances stand up to industry norms and standards. 3. Line up references. Your banker may want to talk to your suppliers, customers, potential partners or your team of professionals, among others. When a loan officer asks for permission to contact references, promptly answer with names and numbers; don't leave him or her waiting for a week. Walking into a bank and talking to a loan officer will always be something of a stressful situation. Preparation for and thorough understanding of this evaluation process is essential to minimize the stressful variables and optimize your potential to qualify for the funding you seek. The advice and experience of an accounting and tax professional is invaluable. Don't be shy about calling the office with any questions or to request a consultation.

Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax

While the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) tends to affect wealthier individuals most often, in certain circumstances, it can also affect moderate-income taxpayers whose income increases significantly in a given tax year. Here's what you need to know.

What is the Net Investment Income Tax?

The Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) is a 3.8 percent tax on certain net investment income of individuals, estates, and trusts with income above statutory threshold amounts referred to as modified adjusted gross income or MAGI.

What is Included in Net Investment Income?

In general, investment income includes, but is not limited to interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, non-qualified annuities, income from businesses involved in trading of financial instruments or commodities, and passive business activities such as rental income or income derived from royalties.

What is Not Included in Net Investment Income?

Wages, unemployment compensation; operating income from a non-passive business, Social Security Benefits, alimony, tax-exempt interest, self-employment income, Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends, and distributions from certain Qualified Plans are not included in net investment income.

Individuals

Individuals with MAGI of $250,000 (married filing jointly) or $200,000 for single filers are taxed at a flat rate of 3.8 percent on investment income such as dividends, taxable interest, rents, royalties, certain income from trading commodities, taxable income from investment annuities, REITs and master limited partnerships, and long and short-term capital gains. The NIIT is a flat rate tax that is paid in addition to other taxes owed, and threshold amounts are not indexed for inflation. Non-resident aliens are not subject to the NIIT; however, if a non-resident alien is married to a US citizen and is planning to file as a resident alien for the purposes of filing married jointly, there are special rules. Please call if you have any questions. Investment income is generally not subject to withholding, so NIIT is going to affect your tax liability for the 2018 tax year. In addition, even lower income taxpayers not meeting the threshold amounts may be subject to NIIT if they receive a windfall such as a one-time sale of assets that bumps their MAGI up high enough to be subject to the NIIT.

Strategies to Minimize NIIT

Tax planning is crucial--for this year as well as next. If you are anticipating a windfall this tax year or next, there are a number of strategies that you could use to minimize your MAGI and reduce or possibly eliminate tax liability when you file your tax return. These include but are not limited to:
  • Rental Real Estate (depreciation deductions)
  • Installment sales (including figuring out the best timing for sale)
  • Roth conversions
  • Charitable donations
  • Tax-deferred annuities
  • Municipal bonds

Sale of a Home

The Net Investment Income Tax does not apply to any amount of gain that is excluded from gross income for regular income tax purposes ($250,000 for single filers and $500,000 for a married couple) on the sale of a principal residence from gross income for regular income tax purposes. In other words, only the taxable part of any gain on the sale of a home has the potential to be subject to NIIT, providing the taxpayer is over the MAGI threshold amount.

Estates and Trusts Affected

Estates and Trusts are subject to NIIT if they have undistributed net investment income and also have adjusted gross income over the dollar amount at which the highest tax bracket for an estate or trust begins for such taxable year. In 2018, this threshold amount is $12,500. Special rules apply for certain unique types of trusts such a Charitable Remainder Trusts and Electing Small Business Trusts, and some trusts, including "Grantor Trusts" and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) are not subject to the NIIT. Please note, however, that non-qualified dividends generated by investments in a REIT that are taxed at ordinary tax rates may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax. Questions? If you need guidance on the NIIT and estates and trusts, help is just a phone call away.

Reporting and Paying the Net Investment Income Tax

Individual taxpayers should report (and pay) the tax on Form 1040. Estates and Trusts report (and pay) the tax on Form 1041. Individuals, estates, and trusts that expect to be pay estimated taxes in 2018 or thereafter should adjust their income tax withholding or estimated payments to account for the tax increase in order to avoid underpayment penalties. For employed individuals, the NIIT is not withheld from wages; however, you may request that additional income tax is withheld. Wondering how the Net Investment Income Tax affects you? Give the office a call today and find out.

Managing Cash Flow is Key to Business Success

Cash flow is the lifeblood of every small business but many business owners underestimate just how vital managing cash flow is to their business's success. In fact, a healthy cash flow is more important than your business's ability to deliver its goods and services. While that might seem counterintuitive, consider this: if you fail to satisfy a customer and lose that customer's business, you can always work harder to please the next customer. If you fail to have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors, or employees, you are out of business.

What is Cash Flow?

Cash flow, simply defined, is the movement of money in and out of your business; these movements are called inflow and outflow. Inflows for your business primarily come from the sale of goods or services to your customers but keep in mind that inflow only occurs when you make a cash sale or collect on receivables. It is the cash that counts! Other examples of cash inflows are borrowed funds, income derived from sales of assets, and investment income from interest. Outflows for your business are generally the result of paying expenses. Examples of cash outflows include paying employee wages, purchasing inventory or raw materials, purchasing fixed assets, operating costs, paying back loans, and paying taxes.
Note: A tax and accounting professional is the best person to help you learn how your cash flow statement works. He or she can prepare your cash flow statement and explain where the numbers come from. If you need help, don't hesitate to call.

Cash Flow versus Profit

While they might seem similar, profit and cash flow are two entirely different concepts, each with entirely different results. The concept of profit is somewhat broad and only looks at income and expenses over a certain period, say a fiscal quarter. Profit is a useful figure for calculating your taxes and reporting to the IRS. Cash flow, on the other hand, is a more dynamic tool focusing on the day-to-day operations of a business owner. It is concerned with the movement of money in and out of a business. But more important, it is concerned with the times at which the movement of the money takes place. In theory, even profitable companies can go bankrupt. It would take a lot of negligence and total disregard for cash flow, but it is possible. Consider how the difference between profit and cash flow relate to your business.
Example: If your retail business bought a $1,000 item and turned around to sell it for $2,000, then you have made a $1,000 profit. But what if the buyer of the item is slow to pay his or her bill, and six months pass before you collect on the account? Your retail business may still show a profit, but what about the bills it has to pay during that six-month period? You may not have the cash to pay the bills despite the profits you earned on the sale. Furthermore, this cash flow gap may cause you to miss other profit opportunities, damage your credit rating, and force you to take out loans and create debt. If this mistake is repeated enough times, you may go bankrupt.

Analyzing your Cash Flow

The sooner you learn how to manage your cash flow, the better your chances of survival. Furthermore, you will be able to protect your company's short-term reputation as well as position it for long-term success. The first step toward taking control of your company's cash flow is to analyze the components that affect the timing of your cash inflows and outflows. A thorough analysis of these components will reveal problem areas that lead to cash flow gaps in your business. Narrowing, or even closing, these gaps is the key to cash flow management. Some of the most important components to examine are:
  • Accounts receivable. Accounts receivable represent sales that have not yet been collected in the form of cash. An accounts receivable balance sheet is created when you sell something to a customer in return for his or her promise to pay at a later date. The longer it takes for your customers to pay on their accounts, the more negative the effect on your cash flow.
  • Credit terms. Credit terms are the time limits you set for your customers' promise to pay for their purchases. Credit terms affect the timing of your cash inflows. A simple way to improve cash flow is to get customers to pay their bills more quickly.
  • Credit policy. A credit policy is the blueprint you use when deciding to extend credit to a customer. The correct credit policy - neither too strict nor too generous - is crucial for a healthy cash flow.
  • Inventory. Inventory describes the extra merchandise or supplies your business keeps on hand to meet the demands of customers. An excessive amount of inventory hurts your cash flow by using up money that could be used for other cash outflows. Too many business owners buy inventory based on hopes and dreams instead of what they can realistically sell. Keep your inventory as low as possible.
  • Accounts payable and cash flow. Accounts payable are amounts you owe to your suppliers that are payable at some point in the near future - "near" meaning 30 to 90 days. Without payables and trade credit, you'd have to pay for all goods and services at the time you purchase them. For optimum cash flow management, examine your payables schedule.
Some cash flow gaps are created intentionally. For example, a business may purchase extra inventory to take advantage of quantity discounts, accelerate cash outflows to take advantage of significant trade discounts or spend extra cash to expand its line of business. For other businesses, cash flow gaps are unavoidable. Take, for example, a company that experiences seasonal fluctuations in its line of business. This business may normally have cash flow gaps during its slow season and then later fill the gaps with cash surpluses from the peak part of its season. Cash flow gaps are often filled by external financing sources. Revolving lines of credit, bank loans, and trade credit are just a few of the external financing options available that you may want to discuss with us. Monitoring and managing your cash flow is important for the vitality of your business. The first signs of financial woe appear in your cash flow statement, giving you time to recognize a forthcoming problem and plan a strategy to deal with it. Furthermore, with periodic cash flow analysis, you can head off those unpleasant financial glitches by recognizing which aspects of your business have the potential to cause cash flow gaps. Make sure your business has adequate funds to cover day-to-day expenses. If you need help analyzing and managing your cash flow more effectively, please call.

Retirement Saving Tips

Though it's never too late to start, the sooner you begin saving, the more time your money has to grow. Gains each year build on the prior year's gains--that's the power of compounding--and the best way to accumulate wealth.
  1. Set Realistic Goals. Project your retirement expenses based on your needs, not rules of thumb. Be honest about how you want to live in retirement and how much it will cost. Then calculate how much you must save to supplement Social Security and other sources of retirement income.
  2. A 401(k) Is One Of The Easiest And Best Ways To Save For Retirement. Contributing money to a 401(k) gives you an immediate tax deduction, tax-deferred growth on your savings, and -- usually -- a matching contribution from your company.
  3. An IRA Can Also Give Your Savings A Tax-Advantaged Boost. Like a 401(k), IRAs offer huge tax breaks. There are two types: a traditional IRA offers tax-deferred growth, meaning you pay taxes on your investment gains only when you make withdrawals, and, if you qualify, your contributions may be deductible; a Roth IRA, by contrast, doesn't allow for deductible contributions but offers tax-free growth, meaning you owe no tax when you make withdrawals, but contributions are not deductible.
  4. Focus On Your Asset Allocation More Than On Individual Picks. How you divide your portfolio between stocks and bonds will have a big impact on your long-term returns.
  5. Stocks Are Best For Long-Term Growth. Stocks have the best chance of achieving high returns over long periods. A healthy dose will help ensure that your savings grows faster than inflation, increasing the purchasing power of your nest egg.
  6. Don't Move Too Heavily Into Bonds, Even In Retirement. Many retirees stash most of their portfolio in bonds for the income. Unfortunately, over 10 to 15 years, inflation easily can erode the purchasing power of bonds' interest payments.
  7. Making Tax-Efficient Withdrawals Can Stretch The Life Of Your Nest Egg. Once you're retired, your assets can last several more years if you draw on money from taxable accounts first and let tax-advantaged accounts compound for as long as possible.
  8. Working Part-Time In Retirement Can Help In More Ways Than One. Working keeps you socially engaged and reduces the amount of your nest egg you must withdraw annually once you retire.
  9. Other Creative Ways To Get More Mileage Out Of Retirement Assets. You might consider relocating to an area with lower living expenses or transforming the equity in your home into income by taking out a reverse mortgage.

Good Recordkeeping Benefits your Business

Avoid headaches at tax time by keeping track of your receipts and other records throughout the year. Whether you use an excel spreadsheet, an app, an online system or keep your receipts organized in a folding file organized by month, good record-keeping will help you remember the various transactions you made during the year. Records help you document the deductions you've claimed on your return. You'll need this documentation should the IRS select your return for audit. Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents - such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRA, and business or rental property - should be kept longer. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, however, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return including but not limited to:
  • Bills
  • Credit card and other receipts
  • Invoices
  • Mileage logs
  • Canceled, imaged, or substitute checks or any other proof of payment
  • Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return
Good record-keeping throughout the year saves you time and effort at tax time. For more information on what kinds of records you should keep or assistance in setting up a recordkeeping system that works for you, please call the office.

Some Veterans Eligible for Refunds from Overpayment

Certain veterans who received disability severance payments after January 17, 1991, and included that payment as income should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment. The refund is the result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016. Most veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the Department of Defense with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to; the letters include an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim. The amount of time for claiming these tax refunds is limited; however, the law grants veterans an alternative timeframe of one year from the date of the letter from DoD. Veterans making these claims have the normal limitations period for claiming a refund or one year from the date of their letter from the DoD, whichever expires later. As taxpayers can usually only claim tax refunds within 3 years from the due date of the return, this alternative time frame is especially important since some of the claims may be for refunds of taxes paid as far back as 1991. Veterans can submit a claim based on the actual amount of their disability severance payment by completing Form 1040X and carefully following the instructions. There is also a simplified method where veterans can instead choose to claim a standard refund amount based on the calendar year (i.e., an individual's tax year) in which they received the severance payment. Claiming the standard refund amount is the easiest way for veterans to claim a refund because they do not need to access the original tax return from the year of their lump-sum disability severance payment. Veterans eligible for a refund who did not receive a letter from DoD may still file Form 1040X to claim a refund but must include additional documentation to verify the disability severance payment. Veterans who did not receive the DoD letter and who do not have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for their disability severance payment will need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS). Please contact the office if you need additional information or assistance filing Form 1040X.

The Facts about Penalty Relief for Taxpayers

Taxpayers who make an effort to comply with the law but are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control may qualify for relief from penalties. If you've received a notice stating that the IRS assessed a penalty, the first step taxpayers should take is to check that the information in the notice is correct. Those who can resolve an issue in their notice may get relief from certain penalties, which include failing to:
  • File a tax return
  • Pay on time
  • Deposit certain taxes as required
There are several types of penalty relief: 1. Reasonable cause This relief is based on all the facts and circumstances in a taxpayer's situation. The IRS will consider this relief when the taxpayer can show they tried to meet their obligations but were unable to do so. Situations, when this could happen, include a house fire, natural disaster and a death in the immediate family. 2. Administrative Waiver and First Time Penalty Abatement A taxpayer may qualify for relief from certain penalties if he or she:
  • Didn't previously have to file a return or had no penalties for the three tax years prior to the tax year in which the IRS assessed a penalty.
  • Filed all currently required returns or filed an extension of time to file.
  • Paid, or arranged to pay, any tax due.
3. Statutory Exception In certain situations, legislation may provide an exception to a penalty. Taxpayers who received incorrect written advice from the IRS may qualify for a statutory exception. Taxpayers who received a notice or letter saying the IRS didn't grant the request for penalty relief may appeal. If you have any questions about IRS penalties, please call.

Avoid Delays: Renew ITINs Expiring in 2018 Now

Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three consecutive years will expire December 31, 2018. In addition, ITINs with middle digits 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 or 82 will also expire at the end of the year. These affected taxpayers who expect to file a tax return in 2019 must submit a renewal application as soon as possible. ITINs are used by people who have tax filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but who are not eligible for a Social Security number. With more than 2 million ITINs set to expire at the end of 2018, taxpayers should submit renewal applications for Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number soon to beat the rush and avoid refund delays for next year's tax returns. While spouses or dependents residing inside the United States should renew their ITINs, spouses, and dependents residing outside the United States do not need to renew their ITINs unless they anticipate being claimed for a tax benefit (for example, after they move to the United States) or if they file their own tax return. That's because the deduction for personal exemptions is suspended for tax years 2018 through 2025 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Consequently, spouses or dependents outside the United States who would have been claimed for this personal exemption benefit and no other benefit do not need to renew their ITINs this year. To renew an ITIN, a taxpayer must complete a Form W-7 and submit all required documentation. Taxpayers submitting a Form W-7 to renew their ITIN are not required to attach a federal tax return. However, taxpayers must still note a reason for needing an ITIN on the Form W-7. Federal tax returns that are submitted in 2019 with an expired ITIN will be processed. However, certain tax credits and any exemptions will be disallowed. Once the ITIN is renewed, applicable credits and exemptions will be restored, and any refunds will be issued. As a reminder, the IRS no longer accepts passports that do not have a date of entry into the U.S. as a stand-alone identification document for dependents from a country other than Canada or Mexico, or dependents of U.S. military personnel overseas. The dependent's passport must have a date of entry stamp, otherwise additional documents to prove U.S. residency are required.

Watch out for Scams during Hurricane Season

Hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30. With hurricane season well underway, taxpayers should watch out for disaster-related scams carried out by criminals and scammers who often try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers wanting to help victims of major disasters. Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics such as the following:
  • Impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
  • Setting up bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
  • Claiming to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
  • Operating bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email.
To find out whether a charity is legitimate use the search feature, "Tax Exempt Organization Search," on the IRS website. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible. Also, be sure to:
  • Contribute by check or credit card, never give or send cash, to have a record of the tax-deductible donation.
  • Not give out personal financial information such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords "Report Phishing." Disaster victims can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (866-562-5227) and speak to someone who will answer questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues. More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords "scams and schemes." If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call the office as well.

Why QuickBooks Should Be on Your Desktop

If you're still doing your accounting manually you are at a competitive disadvantage--even if you're a very small business. You might be managing just fine using Microsoft Word for invoices and records and Excel for reports, but keep in mind that many of your rivals digitally manage their financial data. Some of your competitors likely use QuickBooks; it's the market leader, and it's on millions of desktops. While you might feel that the products and/or services they use are not necessarily superior to what you are using, they have an edge because digitally managing their financial data enables them to run their businesses more efficiently. Furthermore, when you use software like QuickBooks your customers perceive you as someone who is technology-savvy--and it could help you build better customer relationships. Maybe it's time to update your accounting system too, but first, let's take a look at what your competition has learned about digitally managing their financial data and what you, too, can experience when you use QuickBooks.

How It Helps

Make no mistake; there is never a good time to make the transition to new software. Switching to QuickBooks is going to cut into your productive hours, and it will take time to learn how it works before you can start using it daily. But don't worry. A QuickBooks professional can accelerate that process by helping you implementing it and training you on its operations. Once you get going, you'll discover a whole range of benefits that you may not have even considered, such as: Instant data access. Do you have a customer on the phone with a problem concerning an invoice or payment? QuickBooks' search tools help you track down the smallest detail in seconds. Minimized errors. Once you've entered data into QuickBooks, whether it's a customer's address or the price and description of a product or service, the software stores it. It will appear in lists that you can access when, for example, you're creating invoices. Not only does this improve accuracy, but it also makes duplicate data entry unnecessary. Improved customer relationships. Your customers want answers when they have problems or questions, and they want them quickly and accurately. QuickBooks lets you store all needed details about customers in records, including contact information, payment particulars, and transaction history. Nothing helps encourage future sales like a company that knows its customers. Figure 1: Once you've created an item record, for example, QuickBooks stores it for use in transactions.  Faster payments from customers. QuickBooks supports merchant accounts. Sign up for one, and you'll be able to accept direct bank transfers and credit/debit cards from customers. You can automatically include a payment stub on invoices to speed up the remittance process. Real-time account balances. Supply your login information for your online banks and other financial institutions, and QuickBooks can connect to them. It imports cleared transaction data regularly and helps you reconcile your accounts. You can even set it up to pay your bills electronically. Time-tracking. If you (or your employees) provide services that are billed back to customers, you can create time records individually or on a timesheet. These blocks of hours and minutes can be marked billable, so they'll appear the next time you start an invoice for any affected customers. Figure 2: If your company sells services, you can create individual time records or comprehensive timesheets and mark sessions as billable.  A more contemporary image. Those invoices and statements you create in Word--or worse, write by hand--contribute to your customers' impressions of you and your commitment to using state-of-the-art technology to serve their needs better. When you email professional-looking, carefully-customized sales, and purchase forms, you're likely to go up a notch in their eyes. Feature flexibility. You can use a little of QuickBooks and still have it be worth your time and technology dollars, or you can stretch its capabilities to the limits. If the latter happens, you may want to expand the software's reach by integrating it with one of the hundreds of add-ons available in areas like inventory, invoicing and billing, and CRM. Time and money savings. Believe it or not, this is the most compelling reason to use QuickBooks. Yes, you must pay upfront for the software, and it takes time to get used to using it, but you'll soon see that your investment will reduce the hours you spend on accounting. And that means you'll have more time to do what only you can do: make your business flourish by planning for its future and taking the actions that will move you toward greater success.

Need Assistance?

Have you installed QuickBooks but are having trouble using its features fully? Do you need some guidance, particularly around advanced reports? Don't hesitate to contact the office and let a QuickBooks expert assess where you are with the software and devise a plan to complete its implementation. You may be surprised to learn what you can do.

Tax Due Dates for August 2018

August 10

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during July, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

August 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July. Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

July 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Five Tax Deductions that Disappeared in 2018

Under tax reform, taxpayers who itemize should be aware that deductions they may have previously counted on to reduce their taxable income have disappeared in 2018. 1. Moving Expenses Prior to tax reform (i.e., for tax years starting before January 1, 2018), taxpayers could deduct expenses related to moving for a job as long as the move met certain IRS criteria. However, for tax years 2018 through 2025, moving expenses are no longer deductible--unless you are a member of the Armed Forces on active duty who moves because of a military order. 2. Unreimbursed Job Expenses For tax years starting in 2018 and expiring at the end of 2025, miscellaneous unreimbursed job-related expenses that exceed 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) are no longer deductible on Schedule A (Form 1040). Examples of unreimbursed job-related expenses include union dues, continuing education, employer-required medical tests, regulatory and license fees (provided the employee was not reimbursed), and out-of-pocket expenses paid by an employee for uniforms, tools, and supplies. 3. Tax Preparation Fees Tax preparation fees, which fall under miscellaneous fees on Schedule A of Form 1040 (also subject to the 2% floor), have been eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. Tax preparation fees include payments to accountants, tax prep firms, as well as the cost of tax preparation software. 4. Personal Exemptions Repealed for tax years 2018 through 2025, the personal exemption enabled individual taxpayers to reduce taxable income ($4,050 in 2017). Each household dependent was able to take the deduction as well. While the standard deduction did increase significantly ($12,000 for individuals, $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $18,000 for heads of household) to compensate, some taxpayers may still lose out. 5. Subsidized Parking and Transit Reimbursements for Employers Before tax reform, employees could take advantage of a perk offered by many employers whereby parking and transit pass costs (up to $255 per month in 2017) were reimbursed by their employers tax-free. These reimbursements were not included in the employee's taxable income and were deductible to companies on their tax returns. However, for tax years starting in 2018, the employer deduction is no longer available. If you have any questions about tax reform and how it affects your particular tax situation, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Benefits of S-Corporations

As a small business owner, figuring out which form of business structure to use when you started was one of the most important decisions you had to make; however, it's always a good idea to periodically revisit that decision as your business grows. For example, as a sole proprietor, you must pay a self-employment tax rate of 15% in addition to your individual tax rate; however, if you were to revise your business structure to become a corporation and elect S-Corporation status you could take advantage of a lower tax rate.

What is an S-Corporation?

An S-Corporation (or S-Corp) is a regular corporation whose owners elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax (and sometimes state) purposes. That is, an S-corporation is a corporation or a limited liability company that's made a Subchapter S election (so named after a chapter of the tax code). Rather than a business entity per se, it is a type of tax classification. Shareholders then report the flow-through of income and losses on their personal tax returns and are assessed tax at their individual income tax rates, which allows S-corporations to avoid double taxation on corporate income. S-corporations are, however, responsible for tax on certain built-in gains and passive income at the entity level. To qualify for S-corporation status, the corporation must submit a Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation to the IRS, signed by all the shareholders, and meet the following requirements:
  • Be a domestic corporation
  • Have only allowable shareholders. Shareholders may be individuals, certain trusts, and estates but may not be partnerships, corporations or non-resident alien shareholders.
  • Have no more than 100 shareholders
  • Have only one class of stock
  • Not be an ineligible corporation (i.e. certain financial institutions, insurance companies, and domestic international sales corporations).

What are the Tax Advantages of an S-Corp?

Personal Income and Employment Tax Savings S-corporation owners can choose to receive both a salary and dividend payments from the corporation (i.e., distributions from earnings and profits that pass through the corporation to you as an owner, not as an employee in compensation for your services). Dividends are taxed at a lower rate than self-employment income, which lowers taxable income. S-corp owners also save on Social Security and Medicare taxes because their salary is less than it would be if they were operating a sole proprietorship, for instance. The split between salary and dividends must be "reasonable" in the eyes of the IRS, however, e.g., paying self-employment tax on 50% or less of profits or a salary that is in line with similar businesses. Furthermore, some S-corp owners may be able to take advantage of the 20% deductions for pass-through entities as well, thanks to tax reform. Losses are Deductible As a corporation, profits and losses are allocated between the owners based on the percentage of ownership or number of shares held. If the S-corporation loses money, these losses are deductible on the shareholder's individual tax return. For example, if you and another person are the owners and the corporation's losses amount to $20,000, each shareholder is able to take $10,000 as a deduction on their tax return. No Corporate Income Tax Although S-corps are corporations, there is no corporate income tax because business income is passed through to the owners instead of being taxed at the corporate rate, thereby avoiding the double taxation issue, which occurs when dividend income is taxed at both the corporate level and at the shareholder level. Less Risk of Audit In 2014, S-corps faced an audit risk of just 0.42% compared to Schedule C filers with gross receipts of $100,000 who faced an audit rate of 2.3%. While still low, individuals filing Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business) are at higher risk of being audited due to IRS concerns about small business owners underreporting income or taking deductions they shouldn't be.

Help is just a phone call away.

Whether you keep your existing structure or decide to change it to a different one, keep in mind that your decision should always be based on the specific needs and practices of the business. If you have any questions about electing S-Corporation status or are wondering whether it's time to choose a different business entity altogether, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Rules for Rental Income from Second Homes

Tax rules on rental income from second homes can be complicated, particularly if you rent the home out for several months of the year and also use the home yourself. There is, however, one provision that is not complicated. Homeowners who rent out their property for 14 or fewer days a year can pocket the rental income, tax-free. In other words, if you live close to a vacation destination such as the beach or mountains, you may be able to make some extra cash by renting out your home (principal residence) when you go on vacation--as long as it's two weeks or less. Although you can't take depreciation or deduct for maintenance, you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, and casualty losses on Schedule A (1040), Itemized Deductions. In general, however, income from rental of a vacation home for 15 days or longer must be reported on your tax return on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss. Your rental income may also be subject to the net investment income tax. You should also keep in mind that the definition of a "vacation home" is not limited to a house. Apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, and boats are also considered vacation homes in the eyes of the IRS. Furthermore, the IRS states that a vacation home is considered a residence if personal use exceeds 14 days or more than 10 percent of the total days it is rented to others (if that figure is greater). When you use a vacation home as your residence and also rent it to others, you must divide the expenses between rental use and personal use, and you may not deduct the rental portion of the expenses in excess of the rental income.
Example: Let's say you own a beach house (your "second home") and rent it out during the summer between mid-June and mid-September. You and your family also vacation at the house for one week in October and two weeks in December. The rest of the time the house is unused.The family uses the house for 21 days, and it is rented out to others for 121 days for a total of 142 days of use during the year. In this scenario, 85 percent of expenses such as mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance, utilities, and depreciation can be written off against the rental income on Schedule E. As for the remaining 15 percent of expenses, only the owner's mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible on Schedule A.
Tax Reform and Vacation Rentals Under tax reform, the amount of interest a homeowner is able to write off is limited to mortgage loan amounts of $750,000 or less for tax years 2018-2025. If you own a second home as well, the two mortgages combined could exceed the $750,000 cap. In addition, property tax deductions (combined with state income taxes) are capped at $10,000. If you do not rent out your second home, you could be losing out on deductions (taxes and mortgage interest) that lower your taxable income. Therefore, it is prudent to consider renting out your second home as a vacation rental since you would then be able to deduct these expenses, and possibly others such as Homeowners Association fees, maintenance expenses, and utilities. Furthermore, you can still use the home 14 days a year (more if you are staying there for home maintenance-related activities) and deduct these expenses. Even if you use it more than 14 days a year, you are still able to deduct these expenses proportional to the amount of rental use. Questions? Tax laws are complicated. If you have any questions about renting out your second home or any other tax matters, please call. Go to top

Small Business: Budget vs. Actual Reports

What if there were a tool that helped you create crystal-clear plans, provided you with continual feedback about how well your plan was working, and that told you exactly what's working and what isn't? Well, there is such a tool; it's called the Budget vs. Actual Report, and it's exactly what you need to be able to consistently make smart business decisions to keep your business on track for success.

Be Clear about your Business Plan

The more clear you are about your business goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. Creating a budget forces you to examine the details of your goals, as well as how even a single business decision affects all other aspects of your company's operations.
Example: Let's say that you want to grow your sales by 10 percent this year. Does that mean you need to hire another salesperson? When will the business start to see new sales from this person? Do you need to set up an office for them? New phone line? Buy them a computer? Do you need to do more advertising? How much more will you spend? When will you see the return on your advertising expenditure?

Sound Business Decisions help you Reach your Goals

Once you clarify your goals, then you start making business decisions to help you reach your desired outcome. Some of those decisions will be great and give you better than expected results, but others might not. This is when the Budget vs. Actual Report becomes an effective management tool. When you compare your budgeted sales and expenses to your actual results, you see exactly how far off you might be with regard to your budget, goals, and plans. Sometimes you need to adjust your plan (budget), and sometimes you need to focus more attention to areas of your business that are not performing as well as you planned. Either way, you are gleaning valuable insights into your business. It's like steering a ship. You may be off-course much of the time, but having a clear goal and making adjustments (both small and large) helps you reach your destination.

Ready to Turn your Dreams into Reality?

while it may seem like an inconvenience to create a budget and then create a Budget vs. Actual Report every month, it is crucial. And, as with any new skill, it does get easier especially with a trusted tax advisor on your side who can help you set up your report quickly and efficiently, as well as help you navigate any difficulties you may encounter. Call the office today to set up a consultation to get started. You'll be glad you did. Go to top

Avoiding Tax Surprises when Retiring Overseas

Are you approaching retirement age and wondering where you can retire to make your retirement nest egg last longer? Retiring abroad may be the answer. But first, it's important to look at the tax implications because not all retirement country destinations are created equal.

Taxes on Worldwide Income

Leaving the United States does not exempt U.S. citizens from their U.S. tax obligations. While some retirees may not owe any U.S. income tax while living abroad, they must still file a return annually with the IRS. This would be the case even if all of their assets were moved to a foreign country. The bottom line is that you may still be taxed on income regardless of where it is earned. Unlike most countries, the United States taxes individuals based on citizenship and not residency. As such, every U.S. citizen (and resident alien) must file a tax return reporting worldwide income (including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts) in any given taxable year that exceeds threshold limits for filing. The filing requirement generally applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit, that substantially reduce or eliminate U.S. tax liability.
Note: These tax benefits are not automatic and are only available if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return.
Any income received or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars. In addition, taxpayers who are retired may have to file tax forms in the foreign country in which they reside. You may, however, be able to take a tax credit or a deduction for income taxes you paid to a foreign country. These benefits can reduce your taxes if both countries tax the same income. Nonresident aliens who receive income from U.S. sources must determine whether they have a U.S. tax obligation. The filing deadline for nonresident aliens is generally April 15 (e.g., April 15, 2019.

FBAR Reporting

U.S. persons who own a foreign bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund, unit trust or another financial account are required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) by April 15 if they have:
  • Financial interest in, signature authority or other authority over one or more accounts in a foreign country, and
  • The aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.
A foreign country does not include territories and possessions of the United States such as Puerto Rico, Guam, United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

Income from Social Security or Pensions

If Social Security is your only income, then your benefits may not be taxable, and you may not need to file a federal income tax return. If you receive Social Security you should receive a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount of your benefits. Likewise, if you have pension or annuity income, you should receive a Form 1099-R for each distribution plan. Retirement income is generally not taxed by other countries. As a U.S. citizen retiring abroad who receives Social Security, for instance, you may owe U.S. taxes on that income, but may not be liable for tax in the country where you're spending your retirement years. However, if you receive income from other sources (either U.S. or country of retirement) as well, from a part-time job or self-employment, for example, you may have to pay U.S. taxes on some of your benefits. You may also be required to report and pay taxes on any income earned in the country where you retired. Each country is different, so consult a local tax professional or one who specializes in expat tax services.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

If you've retired overseas, but take on a full or part-time job or earn income from self-employment, the IRS allows qualifying individuals to exclude all, or part, of their incomes from U.S. income tax by using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). In 2018, this amount is $103,900. This means that if you qualify, you won't pay tax on up to $103,900 of your wages and other foreign earned income in 2018.
Note: Income earned overseas is exempt from taxation only if certain criteria are met such as residing outside of the country for at least 330 days over a 12-month period, or an entire calendar year.

Tax Treaties

The United States has income tax treaties with a number of foreign countries, but these treaties generally don't exempt residents from their obligation to file a tax return. Under these treaties, residents (not necessarily citizens) of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate or are exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States. These reduced rates and exemptions vary among countries and specific items of income. Treaty provisions are generally reciprocal; that is they apply to both treaty countries. Therefore, a U.S. citizen or resident who receives income from a treaty country and who is subject to taxes imposed by foreign countries may be entitled to certain credits, deductions, exemptions, and reductions in the rate of taxes of those foreign countries.

Affordable Care Act

Starting in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for each individual to have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for an exemption, or make a payment when filing his or her federal income tax return. All U.S. citizens are subject to the individual shared responsibility provision. If you are not yet eligible for Medicare, U.S. citizens living abroad are generally subject to the same individual shared responsibility provision as U.S. citizens living in the United States.
Caution: You may have heard that under tax reform the penalty for the individual mandate has been eliminated. While this is true, it does not take effect until January 1, 2019.
U.S. citizens or residents living abroad for at least 330 days within a 12-month period are treated as having minimum essential coverage during those 12 months and thus will not owe a shared responsibility payment for any of those 12 months. Also, U.S. citizens who qualify as a bona fide resident of a foreign country for an entire taxable year are treated as having minimum essential coverage for that year.

State Taxes

Many states tax resident income as well, so even if you retire abroad, you may still owe state taxes--unless you established residency in a no-tax state before you moved overseas. Some states honor the provisions of U.S. tax treaties; however, some states do not. Therefore it is prudent to consult a tax professional.

Relinquishing U.S. Citizenship

Taxpayers who relinquish their U.S. citizenship or cease to be lawful permanent residents of the United States during any tax year must file a dual-status alien return and attach Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. A copy of the Form 8854 must also be filed with Internal Revenue Service (Philadelphia, PA 19255-0049), by the due date of the tax return (including extensions).
Note: Giving up your U.S. citizenship doesn't mean giving up your right to receive social security, pensions, annuities or other retirement income. However, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to withhold nonresident alien tax from certain Social Security monthly benefits. If you are a nonresident alien receiving social security retirement income, then SSA will withhold a 30 percent flat tax from 85 percent of those benefits unless you qualify for a tax treaty benefit. This results in a withholding of 25.5 percent of your monthly benefit amount.

Consult a Tax Professional Before You Retire

Don't wait until you're ready to retire to consult a tax professional. Call the office today and find out what your options are well in advance of your planned retirement date. Go to top

The Home Office Deduction: What's New

Self-employed taxpayers who use their home for business may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of it. Qualified persons can claim the deduction whether they rent or own their home and can use the simplified option or the regular method to claim a deduction. For tax years prior to 2018, employees could also claim home office expenses as deductions provided they met additional rules such as business use must also be for the convenience of the employer (not just the employee). Tax reform legislation passed in 2017 however, repealed certain itemized deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions for tax years 2018 through 2025, including employee business expense deductions related to home office use, affecting many remote employees. As a reminder, here are five tips to keep in mind about the home office deduction: 1. Regular and Exclusive Use. Generally, taxpayers must use a part of their home regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The part of a home used for business must also be:
  • A principal place of business, or
  • A place where taxpayers meet clients or customers in the normal course of business, or
  • A separate structure not attached to the home. Examples could include a garage or a studio.
2. Simplified Option. To use the simplified option, multiply the allowable square footage of the office by a rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. This option will save time because it simplifies how to figure and claim the deduction. It will also make it easier to keep records. The rules for claiming a home office deduction remain the same. 3. Regular Method. This method includes certain costs paid for a home. For example, part of the rent for rented homes may qualify. For homeowners, part of the mortgage interest, taxes and utilities paid may qualify. The amount deducted usually depends on the percentage of the home used for business. 4. Deduction Limit. If the gross income from the business use of a home is less than expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited. 5. Self-Employed. Taxpayers who are self-employed and choose the regular method should use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount to deduct. Claim the deduction using either method on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business. Please call if you would like more information about the home office deduction. Go to top

Small Business Payroll Expenses

Federal law requires most employers to withhold federal taxes from their employees' wages. Whether you're a small business owner who's just starting out or one who has been in business a while and is ready to hire an employee or two, here are five things you should know about withholding, reporting, and paying employment taxes. 1. Federal Income Tax. Small businesses first need to figure out how much tax to withhold. Small business employers can better understand the process by starting with an employee's Form W-4 and the withholding tables described in Publication 15, Employer's Tax Guide. Please call if you need help understanding withholding tables. 2. Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Most employers also withhold social security and Medicare taxes from employees' wages and deposit them along with the employers' matching share. In 2013, employers became responsible for withholding the Additional Medicare Tax on wages that exceed a threshold amount as well. There is no employer match for the Additional Medicare Tax, and certain types of wages and compensation are not subject to withholding. 3. Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax. Employers report and pay FUTA tax separately from other taxes. Employees do not pay this tax or have it withheld from their pay. Businesses pay FUTA taxes from their own funds. 4. Depositing Employment Taxes. Generally, employers pay employment taxes by making federal tax deposits through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). The amount of taxes withheld during a prior one-year period determines when to make the deposits. Publication 3151-A, The ABCs of FTDs: Resource Guide for Understanding Federal Tax Deposits and the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed are helpful tools. Failure to make a timely deposit can mean being subject to a failure-to-deposit penalty of up to 15 percent. But the penalty can be waived if an employer has a history of filing required returns and making tax payments on time. Penalty relief is available, however. Please call the office for more information. 5. Reporting Employment Taxes. Generally, employers report wages and compensation paid to an employee by filing the required forms with the IRS. E-filing Forms 940, 941, 943, 944 and 945 is an easy, secure and accurate way to file employment tax forms. Employers filing quarterly tax returns with an estimated total of $1,000 or less for the calendar year may now request to file Form 944,Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return once a year instead. At the end of the year, the employer must provide employees with Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to report wages, tips, and other compensation. Small businesses file Forms W-2 and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration and if required, state or local tax departments. Questions about payroll taxes? If you have any questions about payroll taxes, please contact the office. Go to top

Tip Income: Is it Taxable?

The short answer is that yes, tips are taxable. If you work at a hair salon, barber shop, casino, golf course, hotel, or restaurant, or drive a taxicab, then the tip income you receive as an employee from those services is considered taxable income. Here are a few other tips about tips:
  • Taxable income. Tips are subject to federal income and Social Security and Medicare taxes, and they may be subject to state income tax as well. The value of noncash tips, such as tickets, passes, or other items of value, is also income and subject to federal income tax.
  • Include tips on your tax return. In your gross income, you must include all cash tips you receive directly from customers, tips added to credit cards, and your share of any tips you receive under a tip-splitting arrangement with fellow employees.
  • Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month, you should report all your tips to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.
  • Keep a daily log of your tip income. Be sure to keep track of your tip income throughout the year. If you'd like a copy of the IRS form that helps you record it, please call.
Tips can be tricky. Don't hesitate to contact the office if you have questions. Go to top

IRS Debuts New Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool

As hurricane season gets underway--and with it, the possibility of scam groups masquerading as charitable organizations--taxpayers should know about the new tax-exempt organization search tool. Located on the IRS website, the Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) tool replaces the EO Select Check tool and enables taxpayers to search and access information about tax-exempt organizations quickly. TEOS is mobile friendly as well, accessible on tablets or smartphones. When you use the new TEOS tool you will be able to:
  • Access images of an organization's forms 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, and 990-T filed with the IRS. Initially, only 990 series forms filed in January and February 2018 will be available. New filings will be added monthly.
  • Find out additional information about exempt organizations than was previously available using EO Select Check.
  • Conduct a simplified search process.
  • Access favorable determination letters issued by the IRS when an organization applied for and met the requirements for tax-exempt status. At first, a limited number of determination letters will be available. Determination letters issued since January 2014 will also be available in the future.
Taxpayers can use TEOS to find information previously available on EO Select Check including whether an organization:
    • Is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
    • Has had its tax-exempt status revoked because it failed to file required forms or notices
for three consecutive years.
  • Filed a Form 990-N annual electronic notice with the IRS; this applies to small organizations only.
Publicly available data from electronically-filed 990 forms are still available through Amazon Web Services. Please call or visit the IRS website for additional details. If you have any other questions about the new TEOS tool, don't hesitate to contact the office. Go to top

Penalty Relief for Transition Tax on Foreign Earnings

Section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted in December 2017, imposes a transition tax on untaxed foreign earnings of foreign corporations owned by U.S. shareholders by deeming those earnings to be repatriated. Foreign earnings held in the form of cash and cash equivalents are taxed at a 15.5 percent rate, and the remaining earnings are taxed at an 8 percent rate. The transition tax generally may be paid in installments over an eight-year period when a taxpayer files a timely election under section 965(h). Late-payment and filing penalty relief is now available for taxpayers affected by the section 965 transition tax, in accordance with the following guidance:
  • In some instances, the IRS will waive the estimated tax penalty for taxpayers subject to the transition tax who improperly attempted to apply a 2017 calculated overpayment to their 2018 estimated tax, as long as they make all required estimated tax payments by June 15, 2018.
  • For individual taxpayers who missed the April 18, 2018, deadline for making the first of the eight annual installment payments, the IRS will waive the late-payment penalty if the installment is paid in full by April 15, 2019. Absent this relief, a taxpayer's remaining installments over the eight-year period would have become due immediately. This relief is only available if the individual's total transition tax liability is less than $1 million. Interest will still be due. Later deadlines apply to certain individuals who live and work outside the U.S.
  • Individuals who have already filed a 2017 return without electing to pay the transition tax in eight annual installments can still make the election by filing a 2017 Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return with the IRS. The amended Form 1040 generally must be filed by October 15, 2018.
If you have any questions or need more information about the transition tax and other tax reform provisions, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

All about Sales Receipts in QuickBooks

You know how important it is to obtain receipts for the expenses you and your employees incur. You need to record them, analyze their impact on your cash flow, and claim some of them on your income taxes. Your customers, too, expect to receive forms documenting purchases they've made from you. When they pay you immediately for goods or services, you'll give them a sales receipt, rather than invoicing them for future remittance. Not only will your customers have a record of the transaction--you will, too. QuickBooks supports the creation and tracking of sales receipts. It manages the mechanics of this important task incredibly well and eliminates the need to enter receipt data twice, once on a paper copy for your customer and again in your accounting system. This QuickBooks feature not only minimizes errors but saves time and lessens the possibility of disputes down the road.

A Simple Form

Here's an example of a situation that illustrates the importance of really learning about and understanding QuickBooks before you start entering live data. Say you got a check from a customer on the spot for a house painting job you completed. When you look at QuickBooks' home page, which icon do you click? You might be tempted to click Receive Payments since that's exactly what you are doing. But that screen is reserved for revenue that comes in to satisfy outstanding invoices and unpaid items on billing statements. Instead, you would click Create Sales Receipts to open the Enter Sales Receipts window. Here's a partial view of what you would see: Figure 1: When a customer pays you immediately for goods or services, you need to open and complete the Enter Sales Receipts window.  If you've already entered your customer and item/service records in QuickBooks, you can record your sale very quickly here. Even if you haven't, or if you need to create a new record on the fly, you can select when you open the drop-down option lists for the Customer:Joband Item fields. Warning: Do you need to track inventory levels for products you sell? Have you created accurate records for these items? There is information that QuickBooks needs to help ensure that you don't run out of stock or keep too much on hand. Let a QuickBooks professional walk you through the software's inventory-management tools so you can take advantage of all the benefits it offers. Once you've selected the appropriate customer, Class (if you use this feature), and Template(Here again, do you understand that you can either use the default sales receipt form provided by QuickBooks or customize it? We can help here), make sure that the Date and Sale No. are correct. Next, click on the icon representing the transaction's payment method, choosing from Cash, Check, Credit Card, or eCheck. Click the More button if your method isn't listed there. Here, you can add new options by selecting Add New Payment Method. A small window will open allowing this. If you want to modify this list further by editing and deleting the default methods for example, simply clear and close the current sales receipt, and then open the Lists menu, and select Customer & Vendor Profile Lists | Payment Method List. This window will open: Figure 2: Click the down arrow in the Payment Method field near the bottom of this window to see your modification options.  Once you have chosen the desired Payment Method (and entered a check number if necessary), complete the rest of the sales receipt much like you would an invoice, by selecting the correct products or services, the quantity you are selling, and the transaction's tax status. QuickBooks will fill in the rest if you 've created complete item records. When you are done save the sales receipt. Information about the transaction will be available in standard places like the Customer Information screens and various reports. Whether your revenue is generated instantly (i.e., documented by a sales receipt) or as longer-term payment on an invoice, your company's income is just one element of the cash flow equation. Are you able to create and interpret the reports that can help you understand these complex calculations, like Cash Flow Forecast and Profit & Loss? You probably run some of QuickBooks' more basic sales reports regularly, but consider bringing in a QuickBooks expert to do the deep analysis needed to make better business decisions. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for July 2018

July 10

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during June, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

July 16

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 31

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2018. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until August 10 to file the return. Employers - Federal unemployment tax. Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500. Employers - If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500-EZ for calendar-year 2017. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends. Certain Small Employers - Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2018 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

June 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Saving for Education: 529 Plans

Many parents are looking for ways to save for their child's education and a 529 Plan is an excellent way to do so. Even better, is that thanks to the passage of tax reform legislation in 2017, 529 plans are now available to parents wishing to save for their child's K-12 education as well as college or vocational school. You may open a Section 529 plan in any state, and there are no income restrictions for the individual opening the account. Contributions, however, must be in cash and the total amount must not be more than is reasonably needed for higher education (as determined initially by the state). There may also be a minimum investment required to open the account, typically, $25 or $50. Each 529 Plan has a Designated Beneficiary (the future student) and an Account Owner. The account owner may be a parent or another person and typically is the principal contributor to the program. The account owner is also entitled to choose (as well as change) the designated beneficiary. Neither the account owner or beneficiary may direct investments, but the state may allow the owner to select a type of investment fund (e.g., fixed income securities), change the investment annually as well as when the beneficiary is changed. The account owner decides who gets the funds (can pick and change the beneficiary) and is legally allowed to withdraw funds at any time, subject to tax and penalties (more about this below). Unlike some of the other tax-favored higher education programs such as the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits, federal tax law doesn't limit the benefit only to tuition. Room, board, lab fees, books, and supplies can be purchased with funds from your 529 Savings Account. Individual state programs could have a more narrow definition, however, so be sure to check with your particular state.

Tax-free Distributions

Distributions from 529 plans are tax-free as long as they are used to pay qualified higher education expenses for a designated beneficiary. Distributions are tax-free even if the student is claiming the American Opportunity Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, or tax-free treatment for a Section 530 Coverdell distribution--provided the programs aren't covering the same specific expenses. Qualified expenses include tuition, required fees, books, supplies, equipment, and special needs services. For someone who is at least a half-time student, room and board also qualify. Also, starting in 2018, "qualified higher education expenses" include up to $10,000 in annual expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.
Note: Qualified expenses also include computers and related equipment used by a student while enrolled at an eligible educational institution; however, software designed for sports, games, or hobbies does not qualify unless it is predominantly educational in nature.

Federal Tax Rules

Income Tax. Contributions made by the account owner or other contributor are not deductible for federal income tax purposes, but many states offer deductions or credits. Earnings on contributions grow tax-free while in the program. Distribution for a purpose other than qualified education is taxed to the one receiving the distribution. In addition, a 10 percent penalty must be imposed on the taxable portion of the distribution, comparable to the 10 percent penalty in Section 530 Coverdell plans. Also, the account owner may change the beneficiary designation from one to another in the same family. Funds in the account roll over tax-free for the benefit of the new beneficiary. Gift Tax. For gift tax purposes, contributions are treated as completed gifts even though the account owner has the right to withdraw them - thus they qualify for the up-to-$15,000 annual gift tax exclusion. One contributing more than $15,000 may elect to treat the gift as made in equal installments over that year and the following four years, so that up to $75,000 can be given tax-free in the first year. Estate Tax. Funds in the account at the designated beneficiary's death are included in the beneficiary's estate - another odd result, since those funds may not be available to pay the tax. Funds in the account at the account owner's death are not included in the owner's estate, except for a portion thereof where the gift tax exclusion installment election is made for gifts over $15,000. For example, if the account owner made the election for a gift of $75,000 in 2018, a part of that gift is included in the estate if he or she dies within five years.
Tip: A Section 529 program can be an especially attractive estate-planning move for grandparents. There are no income limits, and the account owner giving up to $75,000 avoids gift tax and estate tax by living five years after the gift, yet has the power to change the beneficiary.
State Tax. State tax rules are all over the map. Some reflect the federal rules, some quite different rules. For specifics of each state's program, see http://www.collegesavings.org.

Professional Guidance

Considering the differences among state plans, the complexity of federal and state tax laws, and the dollar amounts at stake, please call the office and speak to a tax and accounting professional before opening a 529 plan. Go to top

Tax Consequences of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and Lending Club have become increasingly popular for both individual fundraising and small business owners looking for start-up capital or funding for creative ventures. The upside is that it's often possible to raise the cash you need but the downside is that the IRS considers that money taxable income. Here's what you need to know.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by gathering online contributions from a large group of backers. Crowdfunding was initially used by musicians, filmmakers, and other creative types to raise small sums of money for projects that were unlikely to turn a profit. Now it is used to fund a variety of projects, events, and products and in some cases, has become an alternative to venture capital. There are three types of crowdfunding: donation-based, reward-based, and equity-based. Donation-based crowdfunding is when people donate to a cause, project, or event. GoFundMe is the most well-known example of donation-based crowdfunding with pages typically set up by a friend or family member ("the agent") such as to help someone ("the beneficiary") pay for medical expenses, tuition, or natural disaster recovery. Reward-based crowdfunding involves an exchange of goods and services for a monetary donation, whereas, in equity-based crowdfunding, donors receive equity for their contribution.

Are Crowdfunding Donations Taxable?

This is where it can get tricky. As the agent, or person who set up the crowdfunding account, the money goes directly to you; however, you may or may not be the beneficiary of the funds. If you are both the agent and the beneficiary you would be responsible for reporting this income. If you are acting as "the agent", and establish that you are indeed, acting as an agent for a beneficiary who is not yourself, the funds will be taxable to the beneficiary when paid--not to you, the agent. An easy way to circumvent this issue is to make sure when you are setting up a crowdfunding account such as GoFundMe you clearly designate whether you are setting up the campaign for yourself or someone else. Again, as noted above, as the beneficiary, all income you receive, regardless of the source, is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS--including crowdfunding dollars. However, money donated or pledged without receiving something in return may be considered a "gift." As such the recipient does not pay any tax. Up to $15,000 per year per recipient may be given by the "gift giver." Let's look at an example of reward-based crowdfunding. Say you develop a prototype for a product that looks promising. You run a Kickstarter campaign to raise additional funding, setting a goal of $15,000 and offer a small gift in the form of a t-shirt, cup with a logo or a bumper sticker to your donors. Your campaign is more successful than you anticipated it would be and you raise $35,000--more than twice your goal. Taxable sale. Because you offered something (a gift or reward) in return for a payment pledge it is considered a sale. As such, it may be subject to sales and use tax. Taxable income. Since you raised $35,000, that amount is considered taxable income. But even if you only raised $15,000 and offered no gift, the $15,000 is still considered taxable income and should be reported as such on your tax return--even though you did not receive a Form 1099-K from a third party payment processor (more about this below). Generally, crowdfunding revenues are included in income as long as they are not:
  • Loans that must be repaid;
  • Capital contributed to an entity in exchange for an equity interest in the entity; or
  • Gifts made out of detached generosity and without any "quid pro quo." However, a voluntary transfer without a "quid pro quo" isn't necessarily a gift for federal income tax purposes.
Income offset by business expenses. You may not owe taxes however, if your crowdfunding campaign is deemed a trade or active business (and not a hobby) your business expenses may offset your tax liability. Factors affecting which expenses could be deductible against crowdfunding income include whether the business is a start-up and which accounting method (cash vs. accrual) you use for your funds. For example, if your business is a startup you may qualify for additional tax benefits such as deducting startup costs or applying part or all of the research and development credit against payroll tax liability instead of income tax liability. Timing of the crowdfunding campaign, receipt of funds, and when expenses are incurred also affect whether business expenses will offset taxable income in a given tax year. For instance, if your crowdfunding campaign ends in October but the project is delayed until January of the following year it is likely that there will be few business expenses to offset the income received from the crowdfunding campaign since most expenses are incurred during or after project completion.

How do I Report Funds on my Tax Return?

Typically, companies that issue third-party payment transactions such as Amazon if you use Kickstarter, PayPal if you use Indiegogo, or WePay if you use GoFundMe) are required to report payments that exceed a threshold amount of $20,000 and 200 transactions to the IRS using Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions. The minimum reporting thresholds of greater than $20,000 and more than 200 transactions apply only to payments settled through a third-party network; there is no threshold for payment card transactions. Form 1099-K includes the gross amount of all reportable payment transactions and is sent to the taxpayer by January 31 if payments were received in the prior calendar year. Include the amount found on your Form 1099-K when figuring your income on your tax return, generally, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business for most small business owners. Again, tax law is not clear on this when it comes to crowdfunding donations. Some third-party payment processors may deem these donations as gifts and do not issue a 1099-K. This is why it is important to keep good records of transactions relating to your crowdfunding campaign including a screenshot of the crowdfunding campaign (it could be several years before the IRS “catches up”) and documentation of any money transfers.

Don't Get Caught Short.

If you're thinking of crowdfunding to raise money for your small business or startup or for a personal cause, consult a tax and accounting professional first. Don't make the mistake of using all of your crowdfunding dollars on your project and then discovering you owe tax and have no money with which to pay it. Go to top

Filing an Amended Return

What should you do if you already filed your federal tax return and then discover a mistake? First of all, don't worry. In most cases, all you have to do is file an amended tax return. But before you do that, here is what you should be aware of when filing an amended tax return. Taxpayers should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended (corrected) tax return. An amended return cannot be e-filed. You must file the corrected tax return on paper. If you need to file another schedule or form, don't forget to attach it to the amended return. An amended tax return should only be filed to correct errors or make changes to your original tax return. For example, you should amend your return if you need to change your filing status or correct your income, deductions or credits. You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors because the IRS automatically makes those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will mail you a request asking for those. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a separate 1040X for each return and mail them to the IRS in separate envelopes. Note the tax year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. You will find the appropriate IRS address to mail your return to in the Form 1040X instructions. If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing Form 1040X. Amended returns take up to 16 weeks to process. You may cash your original refund check while waiting for the additional refund. If you owe additional taxes file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties. You can use IRS Direct Pay to pay your tax directly from your checking or savings account. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. For example, the last day for most people to file a 2014 claim for a refund is April 17, 2018. Special rules may apply to certain claims. Please call the office if you would like more information about this topic. You can track the status of your amended tax return for the current year three weeks after you file. You can also check the status of amended returns for up to three prior years. To use the "Where's My Amended Return" tool on the IRS website, just enter your taxpayer identification number (usually your Social Security number), date of birth and zip code. If you have filed amended returns for more than one year, you can select each year individually to check the status of each. Don't hesitate to call if you need assistance filing an amended return or have any questions about Form 1040X. Go to top

Tax Breaks for Businesses Hiring New Employees

If you're thinking about hiring new employees this year you won't want to miss out on tax breaks available to businesses with employees.

1. Payroll Tax Deduction for Startups

As part of the Research & Development Tax Credit, for tax years 2016 and beyond, startup businesses (C-corps and S-corps) with little to no revenue that qualify for the research and development tax credit can apply the credit against employer-paid Social Security taxes instead of income tax owed. Sole proprietorships, as well as Partnerships, C-corps and S-corps with gross receipts of less than $5 million for the current year and with no gross receipts for the previous year, can take advantage of the credit. Up to $250,000 in payroll costs can be offset by the credit.

2. Work Opportunity Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit for employers that hire employees from the following targeted groups of individuals:
  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Food Stamp Recipient
  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Recipient
  • Qualified Veterans
  • Qualified Ex-Felons, Pardoned, Paroled or Work Release Individuals
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals
  • Qualified Summer Youths
  • Qualified Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients
  • Qualified Individuals living within an Empowerment Zone or Rural Renewal Community
  • Long Term Family Assistance Recipient (TANF) (formerly known as Welfare to Work)
The tax credit (a maximum of $9,600) is taken as a general business credit (Form 3800, General Business Credit), and is applied against tax liability on business income. It is limited to the amount of the business income tax liability or social security tax owed. Normal carryback and carryforward rules apply. For qualified tax-exempt organizations, the credit is limited to the amount of employer social security tax owed on wages paid to all employees for the period the credit is claimed. Also, an employer must obtain certification that an individual is a member of the targeted group before the employer may claim the credit.
Note: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act) retroactively allows eligible employers to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for all targeted group employee categories that were in effect prior to the enactment of the PATH Act, if the individual began or begins work for the employer after December 31, 2014 and before January 1, 2020.
For tax-exempt employers, the PATH Act retroactively allows them to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2014, and before January 1, 2020.

3. Disabled Access Credit

Employers that hire disabled workers might also be able to take advantage of two additional tax credits in addition to the WOTC. The Disabled Access Credit is a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full-time employees in the previous year; they may take the credit each, and every year they incur access expenditures. Eligible expenditures include amounts paid or incurred to:
1. Remove barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities;2. Provide qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals; 3. Provide qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments; or 4. Acquire or modify equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities.

4. Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction

The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized. Businesses claim the deduction by listing it as a separate expense on their income tax return. Businesses may use the Disabled Tax Credit and the Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction together in the same tax year if the expenses meet the requirements of both sections. To use both, the deduction is equal to the difference between the total expenditures and the amount of the credit claimed.

5. State Tax Credits

Many states use tax credits and deductions as incentives for hiring and job growth. Employers are eligible for these credits and deductions when they create new jobs and hire employees that meet certain requirements. Examples include the New Employment Credit (NEC) in California, the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit, and Empire Zone Tax Credits in New York.

6. FICA Tip Tax Credit

Certain food and beverage establishments can claim a credit for social security and Medicare taxes paid or incurred by the employer on certain employees' tips. The credit is part of the general business credit. To take advantage of this credit, restaurant managers must complete IRS Form 8846, Credit for Employer Social Security and Medicare Taxes Paid on Certain Employee Tips. If the restaurant employs more than 10 tipped employees, then IRS Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips is used to report tips and determine allocated tips for tipped employees. The credit is not refundable (there must be taxable income); however, unused FICA credits may be carried back one year or carried forward up to 20 years.

Questions?

If you're a business owner and are wondering what tax breaks your business qualifies for, don't hesitate to call the office and speak to a tax and accounting professional you can trust. Go to top

Seasonal Employees and Taxes

Many businesses hire part-time or full-time workers, especially in the summer. These types of employees are referred to as seasonal workers, which the IRS defines as an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis (i.e., six months or less). Examples of this kind of work include retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons, sports events, or during the harvest or commercial fishing season. Part-time and seasonal employees are subject to the same tax withholding rules that apply to other employees. All taxpayers fill out a W-4 when starting a new job. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paycheck; however, Form W-4 worksheets filled out by many employees do not distinguish between part-year jobs and full-year jobs. Taxpayers (including students--more about this topic below) with multiple summer jobs will want to make sure all their employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover their total income tax liability.

Changes to Withholding under Tax Reform

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, eliminating personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing the tax rates and brackets starting in 2018. Many taxpayers working part-time or who have seasonal jobs may not be aware of the changes in tax law that could affect their paycheck--and their 2018 tax returns when they file next year. Of note is that any changes a part-year employee makes to their withholding amount has a more significant impact on their paycheck than it does for employees who work year-round. As such, now is a good time to perform a "paycheck check-up" using the Withholding Calculator, a special tool on the IRS website that can help taxpayers with part-year employment estimate their income, credits, adjustments, and deductions more accurately. It also checks to see whether a taxpayer is having the correct amount of tax withheld for their financial situation. Using the withholding calculator
  • First, the calculator asks about the dates of a taxpayer's employment and accounts for a part-year employee's shorter employment rather than assuming that their weekly tax withholding amount would be applied to a full year.
  • Next, the calculator makes recommendations for part-year employees accordingly. If a taxpayer has more than one part-year job, the Withholding Calculator can account for this as well.
Taxpayers should have a completed 2017 tax return available and will also need their most recent pay stub before using the Withholding Calculator. Calculator results depend on the accuracy of information entered. If a taxpayer's personal circumstances change during the year, they should return to the calculator to check whether their withholding should be adjusted. For taxpayers who work for only part of the year, it's best to do a "paycheck check-up" early in their employment period, so their tax withholding is most accurate from the start. The Withholding Calculator does not request personally-identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers. The IRS does not save or record the information entered on the calculator. As always, taxpayers should watch out for tax scams, especially via email or phone and be especially alert to cybercriminals impersonating the IRS. Remember, the IRS does not send emails related to the calculator or the information entered. If you need to adjust your withholding If the calculator results indicate a change in withholding amount, the employee should complete a new Form W-4 and should submit it to their employer as soon as possible. Employees with a change in personal circumstances that reduces the number of withholding allowances should submit a new Form W-4 with corrected withholding allowances to their employer within 10 days of the change. As a general rule, the fewer withholding allowances an employee enters on the Form W-4, the higher their tax withholding will be. Entering "0" or "1" on line 5 of the W-4 means more tax will be withheld. Entering a bigger number means less tax withholding, resulting in a smaller tax refund or potentially a tax bill or penalty.

Students with Income from a Summer Job

If your child is a student with a summer job, the income your child earns over the summer is considered taxable income. For example, if your child is working as a waiter or a camp counselor, they may receive tips as part of their summer income. All tip income is taxable and is, therefore, subject to federal income tax. Many students take on odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash. If this is your child's situation, keep in mind that earnings received from self-employment are also subject to income tax. This includes income from odd jobs such as babysitting and lawn mowing. If your child has net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment, they also have to pay self-employment tax. Church employee income of $108.28 or more must also pay self-employment tax. This tax pays for benefits under the Social Security system. Social Security and Medicare benefits are available to individuals who are self-employed just as they are to wage earners who have Social Security tax and Medicare tax withheld from their wages. The self-employment tax is figured on Form 1040, Schedule SE. Generally, newspaper carriers or distributors under age 18 are not subject to self-employment tax; however, special rules apply to services performed as a newspaper carrier or distributor. As a direct seller, your child is treated as being self-employed for federal tax purposes if the following conditions are met:
  • Your child is in the business of delivering newspapers.
  • All pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked.
  • Delivery services are performed under a written contract which states that your child will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.
If your child participates in advanced training as an ROTC student and receives a subsistence allowance it is not taxable. Active duty pay, for example, pay received during a summer advanced camp, is taxable, however.

Help is just a phone call away.

As a seasonal or part-time worker, you may not be required to file a federal or state return if the wages you earn at a part-time or seasonal job are less than the standard deduction; however, if you work more than one job, you may end up owing tax. As you can see, seasonal and part-time workers have unique tax situations. If you have any questions about your tax situation, please call. Go to top

HSA Limits Increase for 2019

Contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent and are adjusted annually for inflation. For 2019, the annual inflation-adjusted contribution limit for a Health Savings Account (HSA) increases to $$3,500 for individuals with self-only coverage (up $50 from 2018) and $7,000 for family coverage (up $100 from 2018). To take advantage of an HSA, individuals must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care. Medical expenses such as deductibles, copayments, and other amounts (but excluding premiums) must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return. For calendar year 2019, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage (same as 2018) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,750 for self-only coverage (up $100 from 2018) and $13,500 for family coverage (up $13,300 from 2018). As with contribution limits, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are adjusted for inflation annually. Please call if you have any questions about Health Savings Accounts. Go to top

New Scam Targets Non-resident Aliens

In yet another new twist on an old scam--this time affecting non-resident aliens and international taxpayers--criminals are using a fake IRS Form W-8BEN to solicit detailed personal identification and bank account information from victims. Here's how the scam works: 1. Criminals mail or fax a letter indicating that although individuals are exempt from withholding and reporting income tax, they still need to authenticate their information by filling out a phony version of Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting. 2. Recipients are then asked to fax the information back to the scammers. 3. While Form W-8BEN is a legitimate U.S. tax exemption document, it can only be submitted through a withholding agent. A withholding agent may be an individual, corporation, partnership, trust, association, or any other entity, including any foreign intermediary, foreign partnership, or U.S. branch of certain foreign banks and insurance companies. 4. In the past, fraudsters have targeted non-residents of the U.S. using Form W-8BEN as a lure to get personal details such as passport numbers and PIN codes. IRS Form W-8BEN does not ask for any of that information. The phony letter or fax also refers to a Form W9095, which does not exist. Furthermore, the IRS doesn't require recertification of foreign status. Scam variations Non-resident alien and international taxpayers should be alert to bogus letters, emails, and letters that appear to come from the IRS or your tax professional requesting information. Scam letters, forms, and e-mails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek personal information, including mother's maiden name, passport, and account information in order steal the victim's identity and their assets. Remember, the IRS does not:
  • Demand that people use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone.
  • Demand immediate tax payment. Normal correspondence is a letter in the mail and taxpayers can appeal or question what they owe.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to arrest people for not paying.
  • Revoke a license or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into believing their schemes.
If you have been a victim of an IRS phone scam or any IRS impersonation scam, please contact the office immediately. You should also report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at its IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting site and to the IRS by emailing phishing@irs.gov with the subject line "IRS Impersonation Scam." Go to top

What to do if you get a Letter from the IRS

Each year, the IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. If you receive correspondence from the IRS here's what to do: Don't panic. You can usually deal with a notice simply by responding to it. Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice has specific instructions, so read your notice carefully because it will tell you what you need to do. Your notice will likely be about changes to your account, taxes you owe or a payment request. However, your notice may ask you for more information about a specific issue. If your notice says that the IRS changed or corrected your tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return. If you agree with the notice, you usually don't need to reply unless it gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment. If you don't agree with the notice, you need to respond. Write a letter that explains why you disagree and include information and documents you want the IRS to consider. Mail your response with the contact stub at the bottom of the notice to the address on the contact stub. Allow at least 30 days for a response. For most notices, there is no need to call or visit a walk-in center. If you have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. If you need assistance understanding an IRS Notice or letter, don't hesitate to call the office. Always keep copies of any notices you receive with your tax records. Be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail and does NOT contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information. If you owe tax, please call to find out what your options are. Go to top

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to End this Year

U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets should take advantage of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) before the program closes on September 28, 2018. The planned end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations. More than 56,000 taxpayers have used one of the programs to voluntarily comply since the OVDP's initial launch in 2009, paying a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest, and penalties. The number of taxpayer disclosures under the OVDP peaked in 2011 when about 18,000 people came forward; however, the number steadily declined through the years, falling to only 600 disclosures in 2017. The current OVDP began in 2014 and is a modified version of the OVDP launched in 2012, which followed voluntary programs offered in 2011 and 2009. The programs have enabled U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily resolve past non-compliance related to unreported foreign financial assets and failure to file foreign information returns. Tax Enforcement Stopping offshore tax noncompliance remains a top priority of the IRS and taxpayers should note that the IRS will continue to use other tools besides voluntary disclosure to combat offshore tax avoidance such as taxpayer education, Whistleblower leads, civil examination and criminal prosecution. Since 2009, IRS Criminal Investigation has indicted 1,545 taxpayers on criminal violations related to international activities and remains actively engaged in ferreting out the identities of those with undisclosed foreign accounts with the use of information resources and increased data analytics, according to Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. Streamlined Procedures and Other Options A separate program, the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures, for taxpayers who might not have been aware of their filing obligations, has helped about 65,000 additional taxpayers come into compliance. The Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures will remain in place and available to eligible taxpayers; however, the program may end at some point. The implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the ongoing efforts of the IRS and the Department of Justice to ensure compliance by those with U.S. tax obligations have raised awareness of U.S. tax and information reporting obligations with respect to undisclosed foreign financial assets. Because the circumstances of taxpayers with foreign financial assets vary widely, the IRS will continue offering the following options for addressing previous failures to comply with U.S. tax and information return obligations with respect to those assets:
  • IRS-Criminal Investigation Voluntary Disclosure Program;
  • Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures;
  • Delinquent FBAR submission procedures; and
  • Delinquent international information return submission procedures.
For more information about the options available for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets, please contact the office. Go to top

Employer Credit for Family and Medical Leave

Thanks to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, there's a new tax benefit for employers: the employer credit for paid family and medical leave. As the name implies, employers may claim the credit based on wages paid to qualifying employees while they are on family and medical leave. Here are six facts about this credit and how it benefits employers: 1. To claim the credit, employers must have a written policy that meets certain requirements such as:
  • Employers must provide at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave annually to all qualifying employees who work full time. This can be prorated for employees who work part-time.
  • The paid leave must be not less than 50 percent of the wages normally paid to the employee.
2. A qualifying employee is any employee who has been employed for one year or more, and for the preceding year, had compensation that did not exceed a certain amount. For employers to take this credit in 2018, the employee must not have earned more than $72,000 in 2017. 3. "Family and medical leave" as defined for this particular credit, is leave that is taken for one or more of the following reasons:
  • Birth of an employee's child and to care for the newborn.
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
  • To care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition.
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position.
  • Any qualifying event due to an employee's spouse, child, or parent being on covered active duty - or being called to duty - in the Armed Forces.
  • To care for a service member who is the employee's spouse, child, parent, or next of kin.
4. The credit is a percentage of the amount of wages paid to a qualifying employee while on family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks per taxable year. 5. To be eligible for the credit, an employer must reduce its deduction for wages or salaries paid or incurred by the amount determined as a credit. Any wages taken into account in determining any other general business credit may not be used toward this credit. 6. The credit is generally effective for wages paid in taxable years of the employer beginning after December 31, 2017. It is not available for wages paid in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2019. For more information about the employer credit for family and medical leave, please contact the office. Go to top

Customize QuickBooks' Forms

Every opportunity you have to interact with your customers and vendors is critical. Whether it's a phone call, an in-person connection, or an email, how you present yourself reveals a lot about you. Are you efficient? Friendly? Do you handle orders and problems and payment issues quickly and carefully? Your accounting forms can also contribute to your image. They should always be:
  • Neat and attractive.
  • Easy to read, with the most important information displayed prominently.
  • Consistent with any graphics you use on other company materials.
  • Accurate, above all.
You might be able to use at least some of QuickBooks' form templates as is, without any modifications. But couldn't they be better? More visually appealing? Formatted to include only the fields that your business most often needs? QuickBooks contains the customization tools you need to make them so.

Improving What Exists

Figure 1: You can personalize your QuickBooks forms and make them consistent with any design themes your brand may use.  Let's look at the modification options for an invoice, though, depending on what version of QuickBooks you're using, you can also work with sales receipts, purchase orders, statements, estimates, sales orders, and credit memos. Start by opening the Lists menu and selecting Templates. Highlight Intuit Product Invoice in the list. Click the down arrow next to Templates in the lower left corner and choose Edit Template. The above image displays part of the window that opens. Here, you can add a logo, change the color scheme, and change fonts for your company's contact information and the labels that identify each field (like Bill To, Terms, and Quantity). The right pane of this window shows you what the form will look like as you make changes. Nothing you've done so far will prevent you from using Intuit's pre-printed forms. But when you click Additional Customization at the bottom of the screen, you'll be warned that if you make modifications beyond this point, the forms may not print correctly. To be safe, click Make a Copy. You'll be able to print this new version on plain paper.

Deeper Customization

The image below shows you part of the window that opens when you click on Additional Customization. The first two columns here are the most important; they let you specify the labeled fields that will appear on your invoices. When Header is the active column, you'll be able to choose the content that will go at the top of your form, like Date, Invoice Number, and Terms. Next to each default label, you'll see boxes for Screen and Print. Click in these boxes to create or delete checkmarks; this will indicate whether each label will appear in the software itself and which will be printed for your customers to see. If you'd like to change the language QuickBooks uses to describe each, enter your preferred word or phrase in the Title column. Figure 2: With the Header column highlighted, you can shape the appearance of the top section of your invoices. 
Caution: As you're checking and unchecking boxes, a dialog box may open telling you that your changes will cause some fields to overlap on your form. If you click the Default Layout button, QuickBooks will make automatic adjustments to fix this. Clicking Continue means you'll have to use the software’s Layout Designer to make your own adjustments. This tool is not particularly intuitive, and it requires some design skills. If you must work with the Layout Designer, please call for assistance.
When you click the Columns tab, you'll see a list of the fields available for the main body of your invoices, like Description, Quantity, and Rate. This works similarly to how you just modified the Header, with one exception: You'll be able to enter numbers in the Ordercolumn to specify the placement of each field. Here again, you'll be able to watch a preview of your form change in the right pane. If you want to start over, click the Default button to revert the form to its original state. When you're done, click OK.

Neatness Counts

Whether you print and mail your forms or simply dispatch them electronically, we strongly encourage you to make them as professional and polished as you possibly can. Their appearance will enhance or detract from the image your customers and vendors have of your business. Please call the office if you need help learning about and implementing the customization options that QuickBooks offers. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for June 2018

June 11

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during May, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

June 15

Individuals - If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien living and working (or on military duty) outside the United States and Puerto Rico, file Form 1040 and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. U.S. citizens living in the U.S. should have paid their taxes on April 17. If you want additional time to file your return, file Form 4868 to obtain 4 additional months to file. Then file Form 1040 by October 15. However, if you are a participant in a combat zone, you may be able to further extend the filing deadline. Individuals - Make a payment of your 2018 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the second installment date for estimated tax in 2018. Corporations - Deposit the second installment of estimated income tax for 2018. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in May. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in May. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

May 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Reporting Virtual Currency Transactions

With the price of Bitcoin hitting record highs in 2017, many Bitcoin holders cashed out not realizing the impact it could have on their tax bill. Many people, for example, did not understand that it was a reportable transaction and found themselves with a hefty tax bill--money they may have been hard-pressed to come up with at tax time. Others may have been unaware that they needed to report their transactions at all or failed to do so because it seemed too complicated. The good news is that if you failed to report income from virtual currency transactions on your income tax return, it's not too late. Even though the due date for filing your income tax return has passed, taxpayers can still report income by filing Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Taxpayers should also be aware that forgetting, not knowing, or generally pleading ignorance about reporting income from these types of transactions on your tax return is not viewed favorably by the IRS. Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions can be audited for those transactions and, when appropriate, can be liable for penalties and interest. In more extreme situations, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution for failing to properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions. Criminal charges could include tax evasion and filing a false tax return. Anyone convicted of tax evasion is subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Anyone convicted of filing a false return is subject to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Virtual Currency Taxed as Property

Virtual currency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value that functions in the same manner as a country's traditional currency. There are currently more than 1,500 known virtual currencies. Because transactions in virtual currencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently pseudo-anonymous aspect, some taxpayers may be tempted to hide taxable income from the IRS. Virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes. The same general tax principles that apply to property transactions also apply to transactions using virtual currency such as:
  • A payment made using virtual currency is subject to information reporting to the same extent as any other payment made in property.
  • Payments using virtual currency made to independent contractors and other service providers are taxable, and self-employment tax rules generally apply. Normally, payers must issue Form 1099-MISC.
  • Wages paid to employees using virtual currency are taxable to the employee, must be reported by an employer on a Form W-2 and are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.
  • Certain third parties who settle payments made in virtual currency on behalf of merchants that accept virtual currency from their customers are required to report payments to those merchants on Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third-Party Network Transactions.
  • The character of gain or loss from the sale or exchange of virtual currency depends on whether the virtual currency is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer.
Go to top

What to do when your Tax Return is late

Tuesday, April 17, 2018, was the tax deadline for most taxpayers to file their tax returns. If you haven't filed a 2017 tax return yet, it's not too late, and it may be easier than you think. First, gather any information related to income and deductions for the tax years for which a return is required to be filed, then call the office. If you're owed money, then the sooner you file, the sooner you'll get your refund. If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can, which will stop the interest and penalties that you will owe. If you owe money but can't pay the IRS in full, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return to minimize penalties and interest. The IRS will work with taxpayers suffering financial hardship. If you continue to ignore your tax bill, the IRS may take collection action.

How to Make a Payment

There are several different ways to make a payment on your taxes. Payments can be made by credit card, electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier's check, or cash. If you pay your federal taxes using a major credit card or debit card, there is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee. It is important to review all your options; the interest rate on a loan or credit card may be lower than the combination of penalties and interest imposed by the Internal Revenue Code.

What to do if you Can't Pay in Full

Taxpayers unable to pay all of the amount owed on a tax bill are encouraged to pay as much as possible. By paying as much as possible now, the amount of interest and penalties owed will be less than if you do not pay anything at all. Based on individual circumstances, a taxpayer could qualify for an extension of time to pay, an installment agreement, a temporary delay, or an offer in compromise. Please call if you have questions about any of these options. For individuals, IRS Direct Pay is a fast and free way to pay directly from your checking or savings account. Taxpayers who need more time to pay can set up either a short-term payment extension or a monthly payment plan. A short-term extension gives a taxpayer an additional 60 to 120 days to pay. No fee is charged, but the late-payment penalty plus interest will apply. Generally, taxpayers will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a longer period of time. Most people can set up a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. A monthly payment plan or installment agreement gives a taxpayer more time to pay. However, penalties and interest will continue to be charged on the unpaid portion of the debt throughout the duration of the installment agreement/payment plan. You should pay as much as possible before entering into an installment agreement. Taxpayers who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can apply for and receive immediate notification of approval through an online, IRS web-based application. Balances over $50,000 require taxpayers to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan. A user fee will also be charged if the installment agreement is approved. The fee (effective January 1, 2017) is normally $225 but is reduced to $107 if taxpayers agree to make their monthly payments electronically through electronic funds withdrawal. The fee is $43 for eligible low-and-moderate-income taxpayers. Individual taxpayers who do not have a bank account or credit card and need to pay their tax bill using cash, are now able to make a payment at one or more than 7,000 7-Eleven stores nationwide. Individuals wishing to take advantage of this payment option should visit the IRS.gov payments page, select the cash option in the other ways you can pay section and follow the instructions.

What Happens If You Don't File a Past Due Return

It's important to understand the ramifications of not filing a past due return and the steps that the IRS will take. Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions--including substantial penalties and fees.

Need Help Filing your 2017 Tax Return?

If you haven't filed a tax return yet, don't delay. Call the office today to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Go to top

Selling your Small Business

Selling a small to medium-sized business is a complex venture, and many business owners are not aware of the tax consequences. If you're thinking about selling your business the first step is to consult a competent tax professional. You will need to make sure your financials in order, obtain an accurate business valuation to determine how much your business is worth (and what the listing price might be) and develop a tax planning strategy to minimize capital gains and other taxes to maximize your profits from the sale.

Accurate Financial Statements

The importance of preparing your business financials before listing your business for sale cannot be overstated. Whether you use a business broker or word of mouth, rest assured that potential buyers will scrutinize every aspect of your business. Not being able to quickly produce financial statements, current, and prior years' balance sheets, profit and loss statements, tax returns, equipment lists, product inventories, and property appraisals and lease agreements may lead to loss of the sale.

Business Valuation

Many business owners have no idea what their business is worth; some may underestimate whereas others overestimate--sometimes significantly. Obtaining a third-party business valuation allows business owners to set a price that is realistic for potential buyers while achieving maximum value.

Tax Consequences of Selling

As a business owner you probably think of your business as a single entity sold as a lump sum. The IRS however, views a business as a collection of assets. Profit from the sale of these assets (i.e., your business) may be subject to short and long-term capital gains tax, depreciation recapture of Section 1245 and Section 1250 real property, and federal and state income taxes. For IRS purposes each asset sold must be classified as capital assets, depreciable property used in the business, real property used in the business, goodwill, or property held for sale to customers, such as inventory or stock in trade. Assets are considered tangible (real estate, machinery, and inventory) or intangible (goodwill or trade name). The gain (or loss) on each asset sold is figured separately. For instance, the sale of capital assets results in capital gain or loss whereas the sale of inventory results in ordinary income or loss, with each taxed accordingly. Depreciable Property Section 1231 gains and losses are the taxable gains and losses from Section 1231 transactions such as sales or exchanges of real property or depreciable personal property held longer than one year. Their treatment as ordinary or capital depends on whether you have a net gain or a net loss from all your Section 1231 transactions. When you dispose of depreciable property (Section 1245 property or Section 1250 property) at a gain, you may have to recognize all or part of the gain as ordinary income under the depreciation recapture rules. Any remaining gain is a Section 1231 gain. Business Structure Your business structure (i.e., business entity) also affects the way your business is taxed when it is sold. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLCs (Limited Liability Companies) are considered "pass-through" entities and each asset is sold separately. As such there is more flexibility when structuring a sale to benefit both the buyer and seller in terms of tax consequences. C-corporations and S-corporations have different entity structures, and sale of assets and stock are subject to more complex regulations. For example, when assets of a C-corporation are sold, the seller is taxed twice. The corporation pays tax on any gains realized when the assets are sold, and shareholders pay capital gains tax when the corporation is dissolved. However, when a C-corporation sells stock the seller only pays capital gains tax on the profit from the sale, which is generally at the long-term capital gains tax rate. S-corporations are taxed similarly to partnerships in that there is no double taxation when assets are sold. Income (or loss) flows through shareholders, who report it on their individual tax returns. As you can see, selling a business involves complicated federal and state tax rules and regulations. If you're thinking of selling your business soon, don't hesitate to call the office and schedule a consultation with a tax and accounting professional. Go to top

Self-Employed? Five Easy Ways to Lower your Tax Bill

If you're like most small business owners, you're always looking for ways to lower your taxable income. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Deducting the Cost of a Home Computer

If you purchased a computer and use it for work-related purposes, you can take advantage of the Section 179 expense election, which allows you to write off new equipment in the year it was purchased if it is used for business more than 50 percent of the time (subject to certain rules).

2. Meal Expenses for Company Picnics and Holiday Parties

If you host a company picnic or holiday party--even if it is at your home--100 percent of your meal expenses are deductible. Prior to tax reform legislation passed in late 2017, 50 percent of your business-related entertainment expenses (with some exceptions) were generally deductible. Starting in 2018, however, entertainment-related expenses are no longer deductible. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call.

3. Deduct $25 for Business Gifts to Associates

Don't overlook the deductible benefit of business gifts during the holidays or at any other time of the year. As a self-employed individual, you can deduct the cost of gifts made to clients and other business associates as a business expense. The law limits your maximum deduction to $25 in value for each recipient for which the gift was purchased with cash.

4. Food Offered to the Public at a Trade Show

If you are a frequent trade show exhibitor (or you are in the business of "food"), you know that offering free food is a sure way to get people to visit your booth. Did you know it's also a tax write off? Typically associated with a promotional campaign, food offered to the public free of charge is 100 percent deductible.

5. Minimize your Tax Bill by Funding a Retirement Plan

As a self-employed small business owner, there are several retirement plan options available to you, but understanding which option is most advantageous to you can be confusing. The "best" option for you may depend on whether you have employees and how much you want to save each year. There are four basic types of plans:
  • Traditional and Roth IRAS
  • Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) Plan and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE)
  • Self-employed 401(k)
  • Qualified and Defined Benefit Plans
To make sure you are getting the most out of your financial future, contact the office to determine your eligibility and to figure out which plan is best for your tax situation. Go to top

Using a Car for Business: New Rules under TCJA

Many of the tax provisions under tax reform were favorable to small business owners including those relating to using a car for business. Here's what you need to know. 1. Section 179 Expense Deduction If you bought a new car in 2018 and use it more 50 percent for business use, you can take advantage of the Section 179 expense deduction when you file your 2018 tax return. Under Section 179 you can immediately deduct (rather than depreciating) the cost of certain property in the year it is placed in service. In 2018, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1 million of the first $2,500,000 million of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. It is indexed to inflation for tax years after 2018. For sport utility vehicles (defined as four-wheeled passenger automobiles between 6,000 and 14,000 pounds), however, the maximum deduction is $25,000 (also indexed for inflation). Certain exceptions may apply, however such as a seating capacity of more than nine persons behind the driver's seat. Vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds are typically considered "work vehicles" and would not be used for personal reasons. As such, there is no expense deduction limit. 2. Luxury Auto Depreciation Allowance For luxury passenger automobiles placed in service after December 31, 2017, the amount of allowable depreciation increases to a maximum of $10,000. The deduction increases to $16,000 for the second year, then decreases to $9,600 for the third year and $5,760 for the fourth year and for years beyond. These dollar amounts are indexed for inflation. Deductions are based on a percentage of business use; i.e., a business owner whose business use of the vehicle is 100 percent can take a larger deduction than one whose business use of a car is only 50 percent. 3. Additional First-Year Bonus Depreciation for Passenger Vehicles For passenger autos eligible for the additional bonus first-year depreciation, the maximum first-year depreciation allowance remains at $8,000. It applies to new and used ("new to you") vehicles acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and remains in effect for tax years through December 31, 2022. When combined with the increased depreciation allowance above, the deduction amounts to as much as $18,000. 4. 100 Percent First-Year Bonus Depreciation for Heavy Vehicles For tax purposes, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is more than 6,000 pounds are treated as transportation equipment instead of passenger vehicles. Heavy vehicles (new or used) placed into service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, qualify for a 100 percent first-year bonus depreciation deduction as well, if business-related use exceeds 50 percent. These deductions are based on percentage of business use and vehicles used less than 50 percent for business are required to depreciate the vehicle cost over a period of six years. 5. Deductions Eliminated for Unreimbursed Expenses for Business use of a Car Under tax reform miscellaneous itemized expenses were repealed. As such starting in 2018, if you are an employee who is required to use your own vehicle for business-related use and are not reimbursed for these expenses by your employer you are no longer able to claim a deduction for unreimbursed expenses for business use of a car on your tax return. Questions? If you have any questions about business use of a car, don't hesitate to call the office. Go to top

Home Equity Loan Interest Still Deductible

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has resulted in questions from taxpayers about many tax provisions including whether interest paid on home equity loans is still deductible. The good news is that despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled. Background The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, 2017, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer's home that secures the loan. Under the new law, for example, interest on a home equity loan used to build an addition to an existing home is typically deductible, while interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, such as credit card debts, is not. As under prior law, the loan must be secured by the taxpayer's main home or second home (known as a qualified residence), not exceed the cost of the home and meet other requirements. New dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balance For anyone considering taking out a mortgage, the new law imposes a lower dollar limit on mortgages qualifying for the home mortgage interest deduction. Beginning in 2018, taxpayers may only deduct interest on $750,000 of qualified residence loans. The limit is $375,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return. These are down from the prior limits of $1 million, or $500,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return. The limits apply to the combined amount of loans used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer's main home and second home. For more information about deducting interest on home equity loans or the new tax law, please call. Go to top

Health Care Tax Credit Relief for Small Employers

Tax relief is available for certain small employers who provide health coverage to their employees and wish to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2017 and later years. To qualify for the credit small employers must provide employees with a qualified health plan from a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace and may only claim the credit for two consecutive years. This tax relief helps employers who first claim the credit for all or part of 2016 or a later taxable year for coverage offered through a SHOP Marketplace, but don't have SHOP Marketplace plans available to offer to employees for all or part of the remainder of the credit period because the county where the employer is located has no SHOP Marketplace plans. As such, employers can claim the credit for health insurance coverage provided outside of a SHOP Marketplace for the remainder of the credit period if that coverage would have qualified under the rules that applied before January 1, 2014. The notice does not affect previous transition relief for the credit that was separately provided for 2014, 2015, and 2016. If you need help calculating the credit under these circumstances or would like more information on whether a county had or has coverage available through a SHOP Marketplace, please call. Go to top

Tax Tips: Obtaining Prior-Year Tax Information

Tax season may be over, but you still need to hang onto your tax returns and other tax records for at least three years. However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), or believes there may be an indication of fraud they have the authority to go back six years in an audit. Furthermore, some documents including those related to real estate sales should be kept for three years after filing the return on which they reported the transaction. In certain instances, such as when filling out financial aid forms for college, you may be required to upload your tax documents from prior years. If you haven't kept copies of your tax returns, you can obtain them through the IRS, but you'll have to pay a fee for them. If you need an actual copy of a tax return you can get one from the IRS for the current tax year and as far back as six years. The fee per copy is $50. Taxpayers can complete and mail Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return to request a copy of a tax return and mail the request to the appropriate IRS office listed on the form. If taxpayers need information to verify payments within the last 18 months or a tax amount owed, they can view their tax account using the "View your account" tool on the IRS website. The tool is only available during certain hours, and your balance updates no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight. You will also need to allow 1 to 3 weeks for payments to appear in the payment history. Ordering a Tax Transcript Taxpayers who cannot get a copy of a prior-year return (and don't need an actual tax return) may order a tax transcript from the IRS. A transcript summarizes return information and includes AGI. They're free and available for the most current tax year after the IRS has processed the return, as well as the past three years. When ordering a transcript it's important to plan ahead. Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request. Taxpayers who order by mail should allow 30 days to receive transcripts and 75 days for tax returns. There are three ways for taxpayers to order a transcript:
  • Online. Use "Get Transcript Online" on IRS.gov to view, print or download a copy of all transcript types. Those who use it must authenticate their identity using the Secure Access process. Taxpayers who are unable to register or prefer not to use Get Transcript Online may use "Get Transcript by Mail," also on the IRS website to order a tax return or account transcript type. Please allow five to 10 calendar days for delivery.
  • By phone. The number is 800-908-9946.
  • By mail. Taxpayers can complete and send either Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, or Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, to the IRS to get one by mail. Form 4506-T is used to request other tax records such as tax account transcript, record of account, wage and income and verification of non-filing. Both forms are available on the Forms, Instructions and Publications page on IRS.gov.
If you need assistance obtaining prior year tax information, please call. Go to top

Sinai Combat Zone Tax Benefits Retroactive to 2015

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December 2017, members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard who performed services in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt can now claim combat zone tax benefits. As such, eligible service members may be able to exclude part or all of their combat pay from their income for federal income tax purposes. Excluding combat pay from a taxpayer's income can result in a lower tax bill. These combat zone tax benefits are retroactive to June 2015. How Armed Services members can claim a refund Service members who previously paid tax on this income may be owed a refund. They may file an amended tax return, Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Returnif they already filed a tax return for tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Combat pay received on or after January 1, 2018, will be correctly reported on any W-2 forms issued to any service member who serves in the Sinai Peninsula. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula in 2015, 2016, or 2017 can provide documentation of their service to their finance officer and ask for a Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement. However, an eligible service member who is unable to secure a corrected Form W-2c may still claim the combat pay exclusion by attaching to their Form 1040X copies of official documents showing they served or worked in the Sinai Peninsula. These documents should indicate the area, theater or military operation and the approximate entry date. Acceptable documents include military orders, letters of authorization (civilians), hospital discharge papers, discharge from active duty, official letterhead memorandum from a military department or civilian employer, or a request and authorization for temporary duty travel of Department of Defense personnel (civilians and military). Electronic filing is not available and amended returns can only be filed on paper. Amended returns may take up to 16 weeks to process; however, within approximately three weeks after mailing an amended return, taxpayers can track the status online using the IRS "Where's My Amended Return?" feature. Please contact the office if you would like more information about requesting a refund based on combat service in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Go to top

Taxpayer Rights: Audits and the Right to Finality

An IRS audit is a review/examination of an organization's or individual's accounts and financial information to ensure information is reported correctly according to the tax laws and to verify the reported amount of tax is correct. IRS audits are conducted either by mail (e.g., you receive a letter in the mail that you must respond to) or through an in-person interview. Taxpayers who have been audited or otherwise interacted with the IRS should know that they have the right to know when the IRS has finished the audit. Known as the right to finality, it is one of ten basic taxpayer rights--known collectively as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. All taxpayers dealing with the IRS are entitled to these rights. If you've been audited, here are seven things you should know about the right to finality. 1. Taxpayers have the right to know:
  • The maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS's position.
  • The maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt.
  • When the IRS has finished an audit.
2. The IRS generally has three years from the date taxpayers file their returns to assess any additional tax for that tax year. 3. There are some limited exceptions to the three-year rule, including when taxpayers fail to file returns for specific years or file false or fraudulent returns. In these cases, the IRS has an unlimited amount of time to assess tax for that tax year. 4. The IRS generally has 10 years from the assessment date to collect unpaid taxes. This 10-year period cannot be extended, except for taxpayers who enter into installment agreements or the IRS obtains court judgments. 5. There are circumstances when the 10-year collection period may be suspended. This can happen when the IRS cannot collect money due to the taxpayer's bankruptcy, or there's an ongoing collection due process proceeding involving the taxpayer. 6. A statutory notice of deficiency is a letter proposing additional tax the taxpayer owes. This notice must include the deadline for filing a petition with the tax court to challenge the amount proposed. 7. Generally, a taxpayer will only be subject to one audit per tax year. However, the IRS may reopen an audit for a previous tax year, if the IRS finds it necessary. This could happen, for example, if a taxpayer files a fraudulent return. If you have any questions about this topic, help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Getting Ready for Payroll in QuickBooks Online

Payroll is probably the most complex element of small business accounting. Not only are you directly responsible to your employees, but you also need to make sure you are handling everything related to benefits and payroll taxes correctly. Whether you are switching from a manual system to QuickBooks Online, or you have just hired your first employee, you will soon discover that the site can make your payroll-related tasks much more organized and accurate--speeding up the process tremendously. But before you start getting ready for your first payroll run, you have a lot of setup work to be done. Be sure to leave yourself time before those first paychecks are expected. This is not meant to be a payroll setup tutorial. While some step-by-step instruction is provided, initially, we just want you to see what information you will need to have available and how QuickBooks Online handles it.

Building a Backbone

There is no particular order set in stone for your payroll preparation tasks, although you will need to provide some background information about your company and its policies before you can start creating employee records. QuickBooks Online does not walk you through the steps required; however, it does display a page with links to all of the data that you will have to enter. Click the gear icon in the upper right, and then click Payroll Settings. You will see this screen: Figure 1: QuickBooks Online's Payroll Settings screen displays links to the pages where you will manage your setup tasks.  You would have entered information about your Contact Information and Work Locations(under the Business Information heading) when you first signed on to QuickBooks Online. At the same time, you would have been exposed to the Chart of Accounts, which already has accounts designated for payroll. You can see them by clicking Preferences | Accounting, but please do not customize these. If modifications are needed, we will do them for you.

Payroll Policies

How often will you pay your employees? Go up to the Payroll heading in the upper left and click on Pay Schedules. Click Createand open the drop-down list next to Pay Period to select the frequency desired. Then enter the date for the first payroll you will run in QuickBooks Online and the end date for the period that it covers. Click the box below if you want this to be the default setting for all employees. Then click OK to return to the previous page. Open the Vacation and Sick Leave Policies window. If you do not yet have accrual rules for these paid days off, let us help you here. It is complicated. When you are done, click the back arrow to return to the Pay Policies window and select Deductions/Contributions. Are you offering benefits like health insurance? You will need to have your paperwork and information handy before you start completing this section. Figure 2: Before you can pay employees, you will need to have entered information about the benefits you offer so you can withhold dollars for them.  Click the plus sign (+) in front of Add a New Deduction/Contribution and complete the fields here, then click OK. You will assign these deductions to employees on their individual records in QuickBooks Online. If there are any Employee Garnishments needed (like child support), click the down arrow next to Add Garnishment for and select the worker from the list. You will provide details for these in the window that opens. This information was most likely provided to you by the agency requesting it. When you are done, click OK.

Taxes and More

If you are new to payroll and have never dealt with payroll taxes before, you are going to need our help getting this complicated element set up correctly. Even if you have, we would recommend that you call and set up a consultation with one of the QuickBooks Online experts in the office. QuickBooks Online does a good job of providing guidance here, but failure to submit payroll taxes (or pay them incorrectly) can lead to penalties and fines--or worse. In addition, there are other setup tasks you will need to complete, such as:
  • Connecting your payroll bank account to QuickBooks Online.
  • Creating employee records.
  • Setting payroll production preferences.
Setup is by far the most challenging part of processing payroll in QuickBooks Online. Once that is done, you will just be entering hours and making modifications. Please contact the office if you are planning to take this on or have any questions. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for May 2018

May 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during April, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

May 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in April. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in April. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

April 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Five Tax Provisions Retroactively Extended for 2017

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA) retroactively extended a number of tax provisions through 2017 for individual taxpayers. Let's take a look at five of them. 1. Mortgage Insurance Premiums Homeowners with less than 20 percent equity in their homes are required to pay mortgage insurance premiums (PMI). For taxpayers whose income is below certain threshold amounts, these premiums were deductible in tax years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and now, once again in 2017. Mortgage insurance premiums are reported on Schedule A (1040), Itemized Deductions, under "Interest You Paid." 2. Exclusion of Discharge of Principal Residence Indebtedness Typically, forgiven debt is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS; however, this tax provision was retroactively extended through 2017. Homeowners whose homes have been foreclosed on or subjected to short sale are able to exclude from gross income up to $2 million of canceled mortgage debt. 3. Energy Saving Home Improvements If you made your home more energy efficient in 2017, you have another chance to take advantage of this tax credit on your tax return. This credit reduces the amount of tax owed as opposed to a deduction that reduces your taxable income. The credit is worth up to 10 percent of the cost (excluding installation) of qualified improvements to a taxpayer's main home to make it more energy efficient such as insulation materials, energy-efficient exterior windows and doors, and certain types of roofs, e.g., metal roof or asphalt roofs specifically designed to reduce the heat gain of your home.
Note: This tax credit is cumulative and has been around for more than 10 years. As such, if you've taken the credit in any tax year since 2006, you will not be able to take the full $500 tax credit this year. For example, if you took a credit of $150 in 2016, the maximum credit you could take this year (2017) is $350.Furthermore, taxpayers should also note that they can only use $200 of this limit for windows.
4. Qualified Tuition and Expenses The deduction for qualified tuition and fees was also extended through 2017 and is an above-the-line tax deduction. In other words, you don't have to itemize your deductions to claim the expense. Qualified education expenses are defined as tuition and related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution. Related expenses include student-activity fees and expenses for books, supplies, and equipment as required by the institution. Taxpayers with income of up to $130,000 (joint) or $65,000 (single) can claim a deduction for up to $4,000 in expenses. Taxpayers with income over $130,000 but under $160,000 (joint) and over $65,000 but under $80,000 (single) are able to take a deduction of up to $2,000. Taxpayers with incomes above these threshold amounts are not eligible for the deduction. 5. Deductible Expenses for Live Theatrical Productions Section 181 refers to special expensing rules for certain film and television productions that allows taxpayers to treat the costs of any qualified film or television production as a deductible expense. This provision also applies to production costs for qualified live theatrical productions with certain restrictions. Only the owner of a film, television production or a live theatrical production can make a Section 181 election and if you want to take the deduction on your 2017 tax return your first paid performance must have taken place in 2017. Furthermore, Section 181 only applies to live stage productions where the seating capacity for the performance is less than 3,000 seats and the production must be based on a written play (or book in the case of a musical). This tax provision is complicated. Please call if you need clarification. Don't miss out on the tax breaks you are entitled to. If you're wondering whether you should be taking advantage of these and other tax credits and deductions, don't hesitate to call the office. If you've already filed your 2017 federal tax return want to claim one or more of these retroactive tax breaks, please call for assistance in filing an amended tax return.

Understanding Estimated Tax Payments

Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. This includes income from self-employment, interest, dividends, and rent, as well as gains from the sale of assets, prizes and awards. You also may have to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax being withheld from your salary, pension, or other income is not enough.

Filing and Paying Estimated Taxes

Both individuals and business owners may need to file and pay estimated taxes, which are paid quarterly. In 2018, the first estimated tax payment is due on April 17, the same day tax returns are due. If you do not pay enough by the due date of each payment period you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return. If you are filing as a sole proprietor, partner, S corporation shareholder, and/or a self-employed individual, you generally have to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when you file your return. If you are filing as a corporation you generally have to make estimated tax payments for your corporation if you expect it to owe tax of $500 or more when you file its return. If you had a tax liability for the prior year, you may have to pay estimated tax for the current year; however, if you receive salaries and wages, you can avoid having to pay estimated tax by asking your employer to withhold more tax from your earnings.
Note: There are special rules for farmers, fishermen, certain household employers, and certain higher taxpayers. Please call if you need more information about any of these situations.
Who does not have to pay estimated tax: You do not have to pay estimated tax for the current year if you meet all three of the following conditions:
  • You had no tax liability for the prior year
  • You were a U.S. citizen or resident for the whole year
  • Your prior tax year covered a 12-month period
If you receive salaries and wages, you can avoid having to pay estimated tax by asking your employer to withhold more tax from your earnings. To do this, file a new Form W-4 with your employer. There is a special line on Form W-4 for you to enter the additional amount you want your employer to withhold. You had no tax liability for the prior year if your total tax was zero or you did not have to file an income tax return.

Calculating Estimated Taxes

To figure out your estimated tax, you must calculate your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credits for the year. If you estimated your earnings too high, simply complete another Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, worksheet to re-figure your estimated tax for the next quarter. If you estimated your earnings too low, again complete another Form 1040-ES worksheet to recalculate your estimated tax for the next quarter. Try to estimate your income as accurately as you can to avoid penalties due to underpayment. Generally, most taxpayers will avoid this penalty if they owe less than $1,000 in tax after subtracting their withholdings and credits, or if they paid at least 90 percent of the tax for the current year, or 100 percent of the tax shown on the return for the prior year, whichever is smaller.
Tip: When figuring your estimated tax for the current year, it may be helpful to use your income, deductions, and credits for the prior year as a starting point. Use your prior year's federal tax return as a guide and use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES to figure your estimated tax. However, you must make adjustments both for changes in your own situation and for recent changes in the tax law.

Estimated Tax Due Dates

For estimated tax purposes, the year is divided into four payment periods and each period has a specific payment due date. For the 2018 tax year, these dates are April 17, June 15, September 17, and January 15, 2019. You do not have to pay estimated taxes in January if you file your 2018 tax return by January 31, 2019, and pay the entire balance due with your return.
Note: If you do not pay enough tax by the due date of each of the payment periods, you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your income tax return.
The easiest way for individuals as well as businesses to pay their estimated federal taxes is to use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Make ALL of your federal tax payments including federal tax deposits (FTDs), installment agreement and estimated tax payments using EFTPS. If it is easier to pay your estimated taxes weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. you can, as long as you have paid enough in by the end of the quarter. Using EFTPS, you can access a history of your payments, so you know how much and when you made your estimated tax payments. Please call if you are not sure whether you need to make an estimated tax payment or need assistance setting up EFTPS.

Need to File an Extension? Don't Wait.

If you've been procrastinating when it comes to preparing and filing your tax return this year you might be considering filing an extension. While obtaining a 6-month extension to file is relatively easy--and there are legitimate reasons for doing so--there are also some downsides. If you need more time to file your tax return this year, here's what you need to know about filing an extension.

What is an Extension?

An extension of time to file is a formal way to request additional time from the IRS to file your tax return, which in 2018, is due on April 17. Anyone can request an extension, and you don't have to explain why you are asking for more time. It simply requires answering a few questions on Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Part I of the form asks personal information such as name, address and Social Security number. Part II is tax related and asks about estimated tax liability, payments and residency.
Note: Special rules may apply if you are serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area or living outside the United States. Please call the office if you need more information.
Individuals are automatically granted an additional six months to file their tax returns. In 2018, the extended due date is October 15. Businesses can also request an extension. In 2018, the deadline for most businesses (whose tax returns were due March 15) is September 17th (October 15 for C-corporations).
Caution: Taxpayers should be aware that an extension of time to file your return does not grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. In 2018, April 17 is the deadline for most to pay taxes owed and avoid penalty and interest charges.

What are the Pros and Cons of Filing an Extension?

As with most things, there are pros and cons to filing an extension. Let's take a look at the pros of getting an extension to file first. Pros 1. You can avoid a late-filing penalty if you file an extension. The late-filing penalty is equal to 5 percent per month on any tax due plus a late-payment penalty of half a percent per month. Furthermore, by filing an extension a taxpayer can avoid paying the late-filing penalty, which can be 10 times as costly as the penalty for not paying.
Tip: If you are owed a refund and file late, there is no penalty for late filing.
2. You can also avoid the failure-to-file penalty if you file an extension. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date (or extended due date), the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. You will not have to pay a late-filing or late-payment penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time. 3. You are able to file a more accurate--and complete--tax return. Rather than rushing to prepare your return (and possibly making mistakes), you will have an extra 6 months to gather required tax records. This is helpful if you are still waiting for tax documents that haven't arrived or need more time to organize your tax documents in support of any deductions you might be eligible for. 4. If your tax return is complicated (for example, if you need to recharacterize your Roth IRA conversion or depreciate equipment), then your accountant will have more time available to work on your return. 5. If you are self-employed, you'll have extra time to fund a retirement plan. Individual 401(k) and SIMPLE plans must have been set up during the tax year for which you are filing, but it's possible to fund the plan as late as the extended due date for your prior year tax return. SEP IRA plans may be opened and funded for the previous year by the extended tax return due date as long as an extension has been filed. 6. You are still able to receive a tax refund when you file past the extension due date. Filers have three years from the date of the original due date (April 17, 2018) to claim a tax refund. However, if you file an extension you'll have an additional six months to claim your refund. In other words, the statute of limitations for refunds is also extended. Cons And now for the cons of filing an extension... 1. If you are expecting a refund, you'll have to wait longer than you would if you filed on time. 2. Extra time to file is not extra time to pay. If you don't pay a least 90 percent of the tax due now, you will be liable for late-payment penalties and interest. The failure-to-pay penalty is one-half of one percent for each month, or part of a month, up to a maximum of 25 percent of the amount of tax that remains unpaid from the due date of the return until the tax is paid in full. If you are not able to pay, the IRS has a number of options for payment arrangements. Please call the office for details. 3. When you request an extension, you will need to estimate your tax due for the year based on information available at the time you file the extension. If you disregard this, your extension could be denied, and if you filed the extension at the last minute assuming it would be approved (but wasn't), you might owe late-filing penalties as well. 4. Dealing with your tax return won't be any easier 6 months from now. You will still need to gather your receipts, bank records, retirement statements and other tax documents--and file a return.

Need to File an Extension? Don't Wait.

Time is running out. If you feel that you need more time to prepare your federal tax return, then filing an extension of time to file might be the best decision. If you have any questions or are wondering if you need an extension of time to file your tax return, don't hesitate to call.

IRS Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2018

Compiled annually by the IRS, the "Dirty Dozen" is a list of common scams taxpayers may encounter. While many of these scams peak during the tax filing season, they may be encountered at any time during the year. Here is this year's list: 1. Phishing Scam artists continue to victimize taxpayers during filing season using a steady onslaught of new and evolving phishing schemes. Email phishing schemes target payroll professionals, human resources personnel, schools as well as individual taxpayers and even tax professionals, deploying various types of phishing emails in an attempt to access client data. Thieves may use this data to impersonate taxpayers and file fraudulent tax returns for refunds. In the most recent scam, thousands of taxpayers have been victimized by an unusual scheme that involves their own bank accounts. After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, the criminals use taxpayers' real bank accounts to direct deposit refunds. Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, including falsely claiming to be from a collection agency or representing the IRS. Fake emails and websites also can infect a taxpayer's computer with malware without the user knowing it. The malware gives the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access all sensitive files or even track keyboard strokes, exposing login information. 2. Phone Scams Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don't get the money. Since October 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports they have become aware of over 12,716 victims who have collectively paid over $63 million as a result of phone scams. Con artists claiming to be IRS officials call unsuspecting taxpayers and demand they pay a bogus tax bill. Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim's name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official. They convince the victim to send cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card or gift card. They may also leave "urgent" callback requests through phone "robocalls," or send a phishing email (see above for more information about phishing). 3. Identity Theft Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. While the IRS has made significant progress in deterring tax-related identity theft (from 2016 to 2017 identity theft decreased by 40 percent), criminals continue to devise creative ways to steal even more in-depth personal information to impersonate taxpayers. As such, taxpayers and tax professionals must remain vigilant to the various scams and schemes used for data thefts. Business filers should also be aware that cybercriminals file fraudulent Forms 1120 using stolen business identities as well. Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protection and make sure security software is always turned on and set to automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on the computer. Use strong passwords. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails. Protect personal data. Treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around. Don't routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. 4. Tax Return Preparer Fraud About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns. The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service, but there are some dishonest tax preparers who set up shop each filing season. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by tax preparers who don't understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren't entitled to in order to increase their fee. Avoid tax preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client's refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition. Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them. 5. Fake Charities Taxpayers should be aware that phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. For instance, following major disasters, it's common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scam artists use a variety of tactics including contacting people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. They may also attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims' identities or financial resources. 6. Inflated Refund Claims Taxpayers should be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax return preparers pushing inflated tax refund claims. Scam artists routinely pose as tax preparers during tax time, luring victims in by promising large federal tax refunds or refunds that people never dreamed they were due in the first place. They might, for example, promise inflated refunds based on fictitious Social Security benefits and false claims for education credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), among others. They may also file a false return in their client's name, and the client never knows that a refund was paid. Filing a phony information return, such as a Form 1099 or W-2, is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes owed. The use of self-prepared, "corrected" or otherwise bogus forms that improperly report taxable income as zero is illegal. So is an attempt to submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a third-party payer to the IRS. In some cases, individuals have made refund claims based on the bogus theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for U.S. citizens and that taxpayers can gain access to the accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to the IRS. Because taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their returns (even if it was prepared by someone else), those who buy into such schemes can end up being penalized for filing false claims or receiving fraudulent refunds. 7. Excessive Claims for Business Credits Improper claims for business credits such as the fuel tax credit and the research credit are also on the IRS "Dirty Dozen" list this year. The fuel tax credit is generally limited to off-highway business use or use in farming. Consequently, the credit is not available to most taxpayers. Still, the IRS routinely finds unscrupulous tax preparers who have enticed sizable groups of taxpayers to erroneously claim the credit to inflate their refunds. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000. Improper claims for the fuel tax credit generally come in two forms. An individual or business may make an erroneous claim on their otherwise legitimate tax return. It is also possible for an identity thief to claim the credit as part of a broader fraudulent scheme. Improper claims for the research credit generally involve a failure to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities and/or a failure to satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses. In addition, qualified research expenses include only in-house wages and supply expenses and 65 percent (typically) of payments to contractors. Qualified research expenses do not include expenses without a proven nexus between the claimed expenses and the qualified research activity. To qualify for the credit, a taxpayer's research activities must, among other things, involve a process of experimentation using science with a goal of improving a product or process the taxpayer uses in its business or holds for sale or lease. Certain activities specifically excluded from the credit including research after commercial production, adaptation of an existing business product or process, foreign research and research funded by the customer. Qualified activities also do not include activities where there is no uncertainty about the taxpayer's method or capability to achieve a desired result. 8. Falsely Padding Deductions on Tax Returns The vast majority of taxpayers file honest and accurate tax returns on time every year. However, each year some taxpayers fail to resist the temptation of fudging their information. That's why falsely claiming deductions, expenses or credits on tax returns is on the "Dirty Dozen" tax scams list for the 2018 filing season. The IRS warns taxpayers that they should think twice before overstating deductions such as charitable contributions, padding their claimed business expenses or including credits that they are not entitled to receive. Avoid the temptation of falsely inflating deductions or expenses on your return to underpay what you owe and possibly receive larger refunds. Taxpayers may be subject to criminal prosecution and be brought to trial for actions such as willful failure to file a return, supply information, or pay any tax due; fraud and false statements, preparing and filing a fraudulent return and identity theft. 9. Falsifying Income to Claim Credits This scam involves inflating or including income on a tax return that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income, usually in order to maximize refundable credits. Falsely claiming an expense or deduction you did not pay, claiming income you did not earn could have serious repercussions. Con artists often argue that the proper way to redeem or draw on a fictitious "held-aside" account is to use some form of made-up financial instrument, such as a bonded promissory note, that purports to be a debt payment method for credit cards or mortgage debt. Scammers provide fraudulent Form(s) 1099-MISC that appear to be issued by a large bank, loan service and/or mortgage company with which the taxpayer may have had a prior relationship. Well-intentioned individual taxpayers who don't understand taxes or unscrupulous return preparers who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren't entitled to do this to secure larger refundable credits (e.g., the Earned Income Tax Credit) to charge a higher fee; however, it can have serious repercussions. Taxpayers can face a large bill to repay the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties. In some cases, they may even face criminal prosecution. Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what's on their tax return whether it is prepared using tax software or a tax professional. 10. Frivolous Tax Arguments Taxpayers are also warned against using frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying their taxes. Examples include contentions that taxpayers can refuse to pay taxes on religious or moral grounds by invoking the First Amendment or that the only "employees" subject to federal income tax are employees of the federal government, and that only foreign-source income is taxable. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. These arguments are wrong and have been thrown out of court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. 11. Abusive Tax Shelters Abusive tax shelters, particularly those involving micro-captive insurance shelters, are on the list again for 2018. Phony tax shelters and structures to avoid paying taxes continues to be a problem and taxpayers should steer clear of these types of schemes as they can end up costing taxpayers more in back taxes, penalties, and interest than they saved in the first place. Another tax shelter abuse involving a legitimate tax structure involves certain small or "micro" captive insurance companies. In the abusive structure, unscrupulous promoters, accountants, or wealth planners persuade the owners of closely held entities to participate in these schemes. The promoters assist the owners to create captive insurance companies onshore or offshore and cause the creation and sale of the captive "insurance" policies to the closely held entities. The promoters manage the entities' captive insurance companies for substantial fees, assisting taxpayers unsophisticated in insurance, to continue the charade from year to year. For example, coverages may insure implausible risks, fail to match genuine business needs or duplicate the taxpayer's commercial coverages. Premium amounts may be unsupported by underwriting or actuarial analysis may be geared to a desired deduction amount or may be significantly higher than premiums for comparable commercial coverage. Policies may contain vague, ambiguous or deceptive terms and otherwise, fail to meet industry or regulatory standards. Claims' administrative processes may be insufficient or altogether absent. Insureds may fail to file claims that are seemingly covered by the captive insurance. Micro-captives may invest in illiquid or speculative assets or loans or otherwise transfer capital to or for the benefit of the insured, the captive's owners or other related persons or entities. Captives may also be formed to advance intergenerational wealth transfer objectives and avoid estate and gift taxes. Promoters, reinsurers and captive insurance managers may share common ownership interests that result in conflicts of interest. The bottom line: Don't use abusive tax structures to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. The vast majority of taxpayers pay their fair share, and everyone should be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, seek an independent opinion if offered complex products. 12. Unreported Offshore Accounts Through the years, offshore accounts have been used to lure taxpayers into scams and schemes. Numerous individuals have been identified as evading U.S. taxes by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or nominee entities and then using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the funds. Others have employed foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans for the same purpose. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements that need to be fulfilled. U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and who do not comply with reporting requirements are breaking the law and risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution. Since 2009, tens of thousands of individuals have come forward to voluntarily disclose their foreign financial accounts through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP), taking advantage of special opportunities to comply with the U.S. tax system and resolve their tax obligations. The IRS recently announced that this voluntary program will end on September 28, 2018. If you think you've been a victim of a tax scam, please contact the office immediately.

Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Tax Credits

Tax credits can reduce your tax bill or give you a bigger refund but not all tax credits are created equal. While most tax credits are refundable, some credits are nonrefundable but before we take a look at the difference between refundable and nonrefundable tax credits, it's important to understand the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction.

Understanding the Difference between a Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction

Tax credits reduce your tax liability dollar for dollar and are more valuable than tax deductions that reduce your taxable income and tied to your marginal tax bracket. Let's look at the difference between a tax credit of $1,000 and a tax deduction of $1,000 for a taxpayer whose income places them in the 22% tax bracket:
    • A tax credit worth $1,000 reduces the amount of tax owed by $1,000--the same dollar amount.
 
  • A tax deduction worth the same amount ($1,000) only saves you $330, however (0.22 x $1,000 = $220). As you can see, tax credits save you more money than tax deductions.

Tax Credits: Refundable vs. Nonrefundable

A refundable tax credit not only reduces the federal tax you owe but also could result in a refund if it more than you owe. Let's say you are eligible to take a $1,000 Child Tax Credit but only owe $200 in taxes. The additional amount ($800) is treated as a refund to which you are entitled. A nonrefundable tax credit, on the other hand, means you get a refund only up to the amount you owe. For example, if you are eligible to take an American Opportunity Tax Credit worth $1,000 and the amount of tax owed is only $800, you can only reduce your taxable amount by $800--not the full $1,000.
Refundable Tax Credits
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • The Saver's Credit
Nonrefundable Tax Credits Examples of nonrefundable tax credits include:
  • Adoption Tax Credit
  • Foreign Tax Credit
  • Mortgage Interest Tax Credit
  • Residential Energy Property Credit
  • Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled
  • Child Tax Credit (tax years prior to 2018)
Partially Refundable Tax Credits Some tax credits are only partially refundable such as:
  • Child Tax Credit (starting in 2018)
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit

Questions about tax credits or deductions?

If you have any questions or would like more information about either of these tax topics, please call.

Late Filing and Late Payment Penalties

April 17 is the deadline for most people to file their federal income tax return and pay any taxes they owe. The bad news is that if you miss the deadline (for whatever reason) you may be assessed penalties for both failing to file a tax return and for failing to pay taxes they owe by the deadline. The good news is that there is no penalty if you file a late tax return but are due a refund. Here are ten important facts every taxpayer should know about penalties for filing or paying late: 1. A failure-to-file penalty may apply. If you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will most likely owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late. 2. Penalty for filing late. The penalty for filing a late return is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late and starts accruing the day after the tax filing due date. Late filing penalties will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. 3. Failure to pay penalty. If you do not pay your taxes by the tax deadline, you normally will face a failure-to-pay penalty of 1/2 of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes. That penalty applies for each month or part of a month after the due date and starts accruing the day after the tax-filing due date. 4. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. You should file your tax return on time each year, even if you're not able to pay all the taxes you owe by the due date. You can reduce additional interest and penalties by paying as much as you can with your tax return. You should explore other payment options such as getting a loan or making an installment agreement to make payments. Contact the office today if you need help figuring out how to pay what you owe. 5. Extension of time to file. If you timely requested an extension of time to file your individual income tax return and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe with your request, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay any remaining balance by the extended due date. 6. Two penalties may apply. One penalty is for filing late and one is for paying late--and they can add up fast, especially since interest accrues on top of the penalties but if both the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the 1/2 percent failure-to-pay penalties apply in any month, the maximum penalty that you'll pay for both is 5 percent. 7. Minimum penalty. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. 8. Reasonable cause. You will not have to pay a late-filing or late-payment penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time. Please call if you have any questions about what constitutes reasonable cause. 9. Penalty relief. The IRS generally provides penalty relief, including postponing filing and payment deadlines, to any area covered by a disaster declaration for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For example, taxpayers who were victims of Hurricane Maria in certain municipalities of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have until June 29, 2018, to file and pay. 10. File even if you can't pay. Filing on time and paying as much as you can, keeps your interest and penalties to a minimum. If you can't pay in full, getting a loan or paying by debit or credit card may be less expensive than owing the IRS. If you do owe the IRS, the sooner you pay your bill the less you will owe. If you need assistance, help is just a phone call away!

Canceled Debt may be Taxable

If a lender cancels part or all of a debt, a taxpayer must generally consider this as income. However, the law allows an exclusion that may apply to homeowners who had their mortgage debt canceled in 2017. Here are seven things you should know about debt cancellation: 1. Main Home. If the canceled debt was a loan on a taxpayer's main home, they may be able to exclude the canceled amount from their income. They must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve their main home to qualify. Their main home must also secure the mortgage. 2. Loan Modification. If a taxpayer's lender canceled or reduced part of their mortgage balance through a loan modification or "workout," the taxpayer may be able to exclude that amount from their income. They may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt canceled in a foreclosure. 3. Refinanced Mortgage. The exclusion may apply to amounts canceled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if the taxpayer used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve their main home and only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before refinancing. Amounts used for other purposes do not qualify. 4. Other Cancelled Debt. Other types of canceled debt such as second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans do not qualify for this special exclusion. On the other hand, there are other rules that may allow those types of canceled debts to be nontaxable. 5. Form 1099-C. If a lender reduced or canceled at least $600 of a taxpayer's debt, the taxpayer should have received Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by January 31, 2018. This form shows the amount of canceled debt and other information. 6. Form 982. If a taxpayer qualifies, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. They should file the form with their income tax return. 7. Exclusion Extended. The law that authorized the exclusion of cancelled debt from income was extended through December 31, 2017. Don't hesitate to contact the office if you have any questions about canceled debt.

Five Tax Tips for Older Americans

Everyone wants to save money on their taxes, and older Americans are no exception. If you're age 50 or older, here are five tax tips that could help you do just that. 1. Standard Deduction for Seniors. If you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older and you do not itemize your deductions, you can take advantage of a higher standard deduction amount. There is an additional increase in the standard deduction if either you or your spouse is blind. 2. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. If you and/or your spouse are either 65 years or older--or under age 65 years old and are permanently and totally disabled--you may be able to take the Credit for Elderly or Disabled. If you are under age 65, you must have your physician complete a statement certifying that you had a permanent and total disability on the date you retired. You must also have taxable disability income that meets certain requirements. The Credit is based on your age, filing status, and income and you must file using Form 1040 or Form 1040A to receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. You cannot get the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled if you file using Form 1040EZ. You may only take the credit if you meet the following: In 2017 your income on Form 1040 line 38 must be less than $17,500 ($20,000 if married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies), $25,000 (married filing jointly and both qualify), or $12,500 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year). and The non-taxable part of your Social Security or other nontaxable pensions, annuities or disability income is less than $5,000 (single, head of household, or qualifying widow/er with dependent child); $5,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies); $7,500 (married filing jointly and both qualify); or $3,750 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse the entire year). 3. Retirement Account Limits Increase. Once you reach age 50, you are eligible to contribute (and defer paying tax on) up to $24,500 in 2018 (up $500 from 2017). The amount includes the additional $6,000 "catch up" contribution for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan. 4. Early Withdrawal Penalty Eliminated. If you withdraw money from an IRA account before age 59 1/2 you generally must pay a 10 percent penalty (there are exceptions--call for details); however, once you reach age 59 1/2, there is no longer a penalty for early withdrawal. Furthermore, if you leave or are terminated from your job at age 55 or older (age 50 for public safety employees), you may withdraw money from a 401(k) without penalty--but you still have to pay tax on the additional income. To complicate matters, money withdrawn from an IRA is not exempt from the penalty. 5. Higher Income Tax Filing Threshold. Taxpayers who are 65 and older are allowed an income of $1,550 more ($2,500 married filing jointly) in 2017 before they need to file an income tax return. In other words, older taxpayers age 65 and older with income of $11,950 ($23,300 married filing jointly)in 2017 or less may not need to file a tax return. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about these and other tax deductions and credits available for older Americans.

Time for a Paycheck Checkup

Withholding issues can be complicated, and with the passage of the recent tax reform legislation--most of which takes effect starting in 2018--, it's important to make sure the right amount of tax is withheld for your personal tax situation. As a first step to reflect the tax law changes, the IRS released new withholding tables in January 2018. A revised Form W-4 was released on February 28, 2018. These updated tables were designed to produce the correct amount of tax withholding. For taxpayers with simple tax situations, the easiest way to do check whether their withholding is correct is to use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov, which is designed to help employees make changes based on their individual financial situation. Using the Withholding Calculator to perform a quick "paycheck checkup" protects employees from having too little tax withheld and facing an unexpected tax bill or penalty at tax time in 2019. It can also prevent employees from having too much tax withheld. With the average refund topping $2,800, some taxpayers, of course, might prefer to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks. Taxpayers should keep in mind, however, that the IRS Withholding Calculator results are only as accurate as the information entered. If your circumstances change during the year, come back to the calculator to make sure your withholding is still correct. With the new tax law changes, people with more complex tax situations such as married couples who both work, higher income earners, and who take certain tax credits or itemize might need to revise their Form W-4 completely to ensure they have the right amount of withholding taken out of their pay. Small business owners or sole proprietors who owe self-employment tax, or individual taxpayers who need to pay the alternative minimum tax, or owe tax on unearned income from dependents, as well as people who have capital gains and dividends should contact the office and speak to a tax professional. Using the Withholding Calculator The Withholding Calculator asks taxpayers to estimate their 2018 income and other items that affect their taxes, including the number of children claimed for the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and other items. It does not request personally-identifiable information such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers, nor does the IRS save or record the information entered on the calculator. Here are the steps you need to take:
    • Gather your most recent pay stub from work. Check to make sure it reflects the amount of Federal income tax that you have had withheld so far in 2018.
 
    • Have a completed copy of your 2017 tax return handy. Information on your return can help you estimate income and other items for 2018. If you haven't filed your 2017 tax return yet you can use a 2016 tax return; however, please remember that the new tax law made significant changes to itemized deductions.
 
    • Use the results from the Withholding Calculator to determine if you should complete a new Form W-4 and, if so, what information to put on a new Form W-4. There is no need to complete the worksheets that accompany Form W-4 if the calculator is used.
 
    • As a general rule, the fewer withholding allowances you enter on the Form W-4 the higher your tax withholding will be. Entering "0" or "1" on line 5 of the W-4 means more tax will be withheld. Entering a bigger number means less tax withholding, resulting in a smaller tax refund or potentially a tax bill or penalty.
  If you complete a new Form W-4, you should submit it to your employer as soon as possible. With withholding occurring throughout the year, it's better to take this step early on. If you have any questions, please call.

Correct Filing Status and Reporting Name Changes

If you haven't filed your taxes yet, it's time to stop procrastinating. If you're not sure what to do first, the fastest way to get started is to figure out which filing status applies to you. In addition, if your name or that of a dependent changed during the tax year for which you are filing, then you will also need to report the name changes to the Social Security Administration. Choosing the Correct Filing Status Choosing the correct filing status is important because it can affect the amount of tax you owe for the year. It may even determine if you must file a tax return. Here are the five filing statuses you can choose from: 1. Single. This status normally applies if you aren't married. It applies if you are divorced or legally separated under state law. 2. Married Filing Jointly. If you're married, you and your spouse can file a joint tax return. If your spouse died in 2017, you can often file a joint return for that year. 3. Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns. This may benefit you if it results in less tax owed than if you file a joint tax return. You may want to prepare your taxes both ways before you choose. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax. 4. Head of Household. In most cases, this status applies if you are not married, but there are some special rules. For example, you must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Don't choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules. 5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply to you if your spouse died during 2015 or 2016 and you have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply. Taxpayers are reminded that your marital status on December 31 determines your status for the whole year. Sometimes, however, more than one filing status may apply to you. If that happens, choose the one that allows you to pay the least amount of tax. Reporting Name Changes All of the names on a taxpayer's tax return must match Social Security Administration records and a name mismatch can delay a tax refund. Here's what you should do if anyone listed on their tax return changed their name: 1. Reporting Taxpayer's Name Change. Taxpayers who should notify the SSA of a name change include the following:
  • Taxpayers who got married and use their spouse's last name.
  • Recently married taxpayers who now use a hyphenated name.
  • Divorced taxpayers who now use their former last name.
2. Reporting Dependent's Name Change. Taxpayers should notify the SSA if a dependent's name changed. This includes an adopted child who now has a new last name. If the child doesn't have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) on the tax return. Taxpayers can apply for an ATIN by filing a Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. 3. Getting a New Social Security Card. Taxpayers who have a name change should get a new card that reflects a name change. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. Taxpayers can get the form on SSA.gov or by calling 800-772-1213. If you have any questions about these or any other aspects of filing your tax return, don't hesitate to call the office immediately.

Tracking Time in QuickBooks, Part 2

Last month, we learned about getting QuickBooks ready for time-tracking by activating it in Preferences and creating a record for a service item. This month, the focus is on using that record in the two different ways you will be using it in QuickBooks: to pay employees for their hourly work and to bill customers for services.

Recording Employee Hours

There are two ways to enter hours for your employees who provide services to customers and are paid by the hour. The first is to create a work ticket for a single activity. Click Enter Time on the home page, and then Time/Enter Single Activity to open this window: Figure 1: Single-activity work tickets for employee hours are especially useful if you need to set a timer. First, check the date to make sure it displays the day when the work was actually done, not recorded. Click the arrow in the field next to Name and select the employee's name from the drop-down list that opens, then do the same in the Customer: Job field below. The Service Item field needs to display the name of the service performed by the employee. If you want to time a period of activity, use the Start, Stop, and Pause buttons under Duration. You can also replace the 0:00 that appears by default with the number of hours and minutes that were worked. In the middle column, select the correct Payroll Item from the drop-down list. You can add a new employee if necessary without completing his or her entire record, but be sure to go back and complete it before your next payroll. Hidden behind the drop-down menu is a field titled WC Code, which stands for Workers' Compensation Code. It will only appear if you are using QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll and have that feature turned on. Tip: If these two fields do not appear, you have selected an employee who is not timesheet-based. In the upper right hand corner, you will see a field labeled Billable. Be sure you click in the box to create a checkmark if you will be invoicing a customer for the work done. Save the activity record when you have completed it.

Using Timesheets

Figure 2: You can enter employees' hours directly on a timesheet instead of creating a single activity record.  QuickBooks offers a second option for entering employee hours: timesheets. You will notice that there is a Timesheet icon in the toolbar of the Time/Enter Single Activity window. If you click on it with a completed record open, a new window opens containing a graphical representation of a paper timesheet. If you enter employee hours in a single activity record, they will appear on a timesheet, and vice versa. There are two advantages to entering hours directly on the timesheet, though. The first is that it is faster. Second, you can click the Copy Last Sheet icon if you are just going to duplicate an employee's previous pay period's hours. If you want to go there straight from the home page, click Enter Time | Use Weekly Timesheet.

Billing Customers for Time

QuickBooks makes it easy to transfer billable hours worked by employees to the corresponding customers' invoices. After you have entered blocks of time spent on services, open an invoice form and select the customer. This window will open: Figure 3: Once you've entered billable hours worked by an employee, simply open an invoice form and select that customer to open this window. By default, Select the outstanding billable time and costs to add to this invoice? is checked. When you click OK, a new window opens displaying a grid that contains all of that customer's billable time. You can Select All or click in front of each entry you want to include. You will notice here that there are also tabs on the grid for Expenses, Mileage, and Items that can be billed back to the customer. If you choose not to carry billable hours over to the invoice at the present time, you can always add them by clicking Add Time/Costs in the invoice's toolbar. Questions? One of our QuickBooks experts is always available to help ensure that you are billing customers for all costs they incur--and to talk about any other element of accounting that affects your cash flow.

Tax Due Dates for April 2018

April 2

Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 - File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 with the IRS (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation). This due date applies only if you file electronically. Otherwise, see February 28. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains January 31. Electronic Filing of Form W-2G- File copies of all the Form W-2G (Certain Gambling Winnings) you issued for 2017. This due date applies only if you electronically file. Otherwise, see February 28. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains January 31. Electronic Filing of Forms 8027 - File copies of all the Forms 8027 you issued for 2017. This due date applies only if you electronically file. Otherwise, see February 28. Electronic Filing of Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and Forms 1094-B and 1094-B - If you're an applicable Large Employer, file electronic forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of essential minimum coverage, file electronic Forms 1094-B and 1095-B with the IRS. Otherwise, see February 28.

April 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 17

Individuals - File an income tax return for 2017 (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Returnor you can get an extension by phone if you pay part or all of your estimate of income tax due with a credit card. Then file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ by October 15. Household Employers - If you paid cash wages of $2,000 or more in 2017 to a household employee, file Schedule H (Form 1040) with your income tax return and report any employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2016 or 2017 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees. Individuals - If you are not paying your 2018 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2018 estimated tax. Use Form 1040-ES. Corporations - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 7004 and deposit what you estimate you owe in taxes. Corporations - Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2018. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 30

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File form 941 for the first quarter of 2018. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until May 10 to file the return.   Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

March 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Employer Responsibilities under the ACA

The health care law contains tax provisions that affect employers. The size and structure of a workforce--small or large--helps determine which parts of the law apply to which employers. Calculating the number of employees is especially important for employers that have close to 50 employees or whose workforce fluctuates during the year. Two parts of the Affordable Care Act apply only to applicable large employers. These are the employer shared responsibility provisions and the employer information reporting provisions for offers of minimum essential coverage. The number of employees an employer has during the current year determines whether it is an applicable large employer (ALE) for the following year. For example, you will use information about the size of your workforce during 2017 to determine if your organization is an ALE for 2018. Applicable large employers are generally those with 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees. Under the employer shared responsibility provision, ALEs are required to offer their full-time employees and dependents affordable coverage that provides minimum value. Employers with fewer than 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees are not applicable large employers.

Who is a Full-time Employee?

There are many additional rules for determining who is a full-time employee, including what counts as hours of service, but in general:
  • A full-time employee is an employee who is employed on average, per month, at least 30 hours of service per week, or at least 130 hours of service in a calendar month.
  • A full-time equivalent employee is a combination of employees, each of whom individually is not a full-time employee, but who, in combination, are equivalent to a full-time employee.
  • An aggregated group is commonly owned or otherwise related or affiliated employers, which must combine their employees to determine their workforce size.

Figuring the Size of the Workforce

To determine your workforce size for a year, you add your total number of full-time employees for each month of the prior calendar year to the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of the prior calendar year and divide that total number by 12. If the result is 50 or more employees, you are an applicable large employer.

Employers with Fewer than 50 Employees

If an employer has fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, the employer is not an ALE for the current calendar year. Therefore, the employer is not subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions or the employer information reporting provisions for the current year.

Information Reporting (Including Self-Insured Employers)

All providers of health coverage, including employers that provide self-insured coverage, must file annual returns with the IRS reporting information about the coverage and about each covered individual. The coverage is reported on a Form 1095-B, Health Coverage and the employer must also furnish a copy of Form 1095-B to the employee by March 2, 2018 (this date reflects a 30-day extension from the original due date of January 31).

Tax Credits

Certain employers may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit if they:
  1. cover at least 50 percent of employees' premium costs
  2. have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages of less than $52,400 in 2017
  3. purchase their coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program.
Employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees are not subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions.

Employers with 50 or More Employees

Information Reporting

All employers including applicable large employers that provide self-insured health coverage must file an annual return for individuals they cover and provide a statement to responsible individuals. Applicable large employers must file an annual return--and provide a statement to each full-time employee--reporting whether they offered health insurance, and if so, what insurance they offered their employees. ALEs are required to furnish a statement to each full-time employee that includes the same information provided to the IRS by March 2, 2018. ALEs that file 250 or more information returns during the calendar year must file the returns electronically.

Employer Shared Responsibility Payment

ALEs are subject to the employer shared responsibility payment if at least one full-time employee receives the premium tax credit and any one these conditions apply. The ALE:
  • failed to offer coverage to full-time employees and their dependents
  • offered coverage that was not affordable
  • offered coverage that did not provide a minimum level of coverage
Questions? Don't hesitate to call for assistance. Go to top

Tips for Getting Paid on Time

For many business owners, collecting on your accounts receivables can be challenging especially as more people switch from established collection procedures to online payment methods. The good news is that you can take positive action to improve collection rates, shorten the aging days of your accounts receivable, help your business improve its cash flow and tighten up its credit and collections policies. While some of the tips discussed here may not be suitable for every business most can serve as general guidelines to give your company more financial stability. Define Your Policy. Define and stick to concrete credit guidelines. Your sales force should not sell to customers who are not credit-worthy, or who have become delinquent. You should also clearly delineate what leeway salespeople have to vary from these guidelines in attempting to attract customers.
Tip: You should have a system of controls for checking out a potential customer's credit, and it should be used before an order is shipped. Further, there should be clear communication between the accounting department and the sales department as to current customers who become delinquent.
Clearly Explain Your Payment Policy. Invoices should contain clear written information about how much time customers have to pay, and what will happen if they exceed those limits.
Tip: Make sure invoices (both paper and electronic) include a telephone number and website address so customers can contact you with billing questions. If you send an invoice via the US mail, also include a pre-addressed envelope.
Timing. The faster invoices are sent, the faster you receive payment. For most businesses, it's best to send an invoice when you complete the service or with a shipment, rather than in a separate mailing or online invoice days or weeks later. Follow Through on Your Stated Terms. If your policy stipulates that late payers will go into collection after 60 days, then you must stick to that policy. A member of your staff (but not a salesperson) should call or email a reminder invoice or notice of late payment to all late payers and politely request payment. Accounts of those who exceed your payment deadlines should be penalized and/or sent into collection if that is your stated policy. Train Staff Appropriately. The person you designate to make calls to delinquent customers must understand the seriousness of and the professionalism required for the task. When calling a delinquent payer, the caller should:
  • Become familiar with the account's history and any past and present invoices.
  • Call the customer and ask to speak with whoever has the authority to make the payment.
  • Demand payment in plain, non-apologetic terms.
  • If the customer offers payment, ask for specific dates and terms. If no payment is offered, tell the customer what the consequences will be.
  • Take notes on the conversation.
  • Make a follow-up call if no payment is received and refer to the notes taken as to any promised payments.
Switch to an Online Payment System. Studies show that customers and clients prefer to pay with debit and/or credit cards or EFTs vs. checks and to have multiple payment options (including traditional paper invoicing) available to them. Furthermore, when you use the latest online payment technology clients are more likely to feel that you run a more efficient streamlined operation and are "up-to-date." If you are a business owner who is struggling to get paid on time or are ready to make the switch to an online invoicing and payment system, help is just a phone call away. Go to top

What Income is Taxable?

Are you wondering if there's a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The quick answer is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it. But as you might have guessed, there's more to it than that. Taxable income includes any money you receive, such as wages and tips, but it can also include non-cash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return. Nontaxable Income Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:
  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses
In addition, some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:
  • Life insurance proceeds paid to you are usually not taxable. But if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Income from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. However, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
  • If you received a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2017 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn't get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Be sure to report any taxable refund you received even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.
Important Reminders about Tip Income If you get tips on the job from customers, that income is subject to taxes. Here's what you should keep in mind when it comes to receiving tips on the job:
  • Tips are taxable. You must pay federal income tax on any tips you receive. The value of non-cash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value are also subject to income tax.
  • Include all tips on your income tax return. You must include the total of all tips you received during the year on your income tax return. This includes tips directly from customers, tips added to credit cards and your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.
  • Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month, from any one job, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. The report should only include cash, check, debit and credit card tips you receive. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on the reported tips. Do not report the value of any noncash tips to your employer.
  • Keep a daily log of tips. Use the Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer (IRS Publication 1244), to record your tips.
Bartering Income is Taxable Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Small businesses sometimes barter to get products or services they need. For example, a plumber might trade plumbing work with a dentist for dental services. Typically, there is no exchange of cash. If you barter, the value of products or services from bartering is taxable income. Here are four facts about bartering that you should be aware of: 1. Barter exchanges. A barter exchange is an organized marketplace where members barter products or services. Some exchanges operate out of an office and others over the Internet. All barter exchanges are required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. The exchange must give a copy of the form to its members who barter and file a copy with the IRS. 2. Bartering income. Barter and trade dollars are the same as real dollars for tax purposes and must be reported on a tax return. Both parties must report as income the fair market value of the product or service they get. 3. Tax implications. Bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. The tax rules may vary based on the type of bartering that takes place. Barterers may owe income taxes, self-employment taxes, employment taxes or excise taxes on their bartering income. 4. Reporting rules. How you report bartering on a tax return varies. If you are in a trade or business, you normally report it on Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business. If you have any questions about taxable and nontaxable income, don't hesitate to contact the office today. Go to top

Tax Tips for Foreign Taxpayers

If you are living or working outside the United States, you generally must file and pay your tax in the same way as people living in the U.S. This includes people with dual citizenship. In addition, U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts exceeding certain thresholds may be required to file Form FinCen114, known as the "FBAR" as well as Form 8938, also referred to as "FATCA."
Note: FBAR is not a tax form, but is due to the Treasury Department by April 17, 2018, and must be filed electronically through the BSA E-Filing System website. It may be extended to October 15.FATCA (Form 8938) is submitted on the tax due date (including extensions, if any,) of your income tax return.
Here's what else you need to know about reporting foreign income: 1. Report Worldwide Income. By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return and report any worldwide income. Some key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file U.S. returns. 2. Report Foreign Accounts and Assets. Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. 3. File Required Tax Forms. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to file Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with their tax returns. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located. Some taxpayers may need to file additional forms with the Treasury Department such as Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets or FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts ("FBAR"). FBAR. Taxpayers with foreign accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2017 (or in 2018 for next year's filing returns) must file a Treasury Department FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts ("FBAR"). Form 8938. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds:
  • If the total value is at or below $50,000 at the end of the tax year, there is no reporting requirement for the year, unless the total value was more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year
  • Taxpayers who do not have to file an income tax return for the tax year do not have to file Form 8938, regardless of the value of their specified foreign financial assets.
The threshold is higher for individuals who live outside the United States and thresholds are different for married and single taxpayers. In addition, penalties apply for failure to file accurately. Please contact the office if you need additional information about thresholds for reporting, what constitutes a specified foreign financial asset, how to determine the total value of relevant assets, what assets are exempted and what information must be provided.
Note: An individual may have to file both forms, and separate penalties may apply for failure to file each form.
4. Review the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Many Americans who live and work abroad qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion when they file their tax return. This means taxpayers who qualify will not pay taxes on up to $102,100 of their wages and other foreign earned income they received in 2017 ($103,900 in 2018). Please contact the office if you have any questions about foreign earned income exclusion. 5. Don't Overlook Credits and Deductions. Taxpayers may be able to take either a credit or a deduction for income taxes paid to a foreign country. This benefit reduces the taxes these taxpayers pay in situations where both the U.S. and another country tax the same income. However, you cannot claim the additional child tax credit if you file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. 6. Automatic Extension. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad on April 17, 2018, qualified for an automatic two-month extension (until June 15) to file their 2017 federal income tax returns. The extension of time to file also applies to those serving in the military outside the U.S. Taxpayers must attach a statement to their returns explaining why they qualify for the extension. 7. Additional Extension of Time to File. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad may be granted a filing extension of up to six months (October 15, 2018) by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return prior to the due date of the tax return (April 17, 2018). However, a taxpayer filing an extension must pay any tax due by the original date or be subject to late payment penalties and interest. 8. Get Tax Help. If you're a taxpayer or resident alien living abroad that needs help with tax filing issues, IRS notices, and tax bills, or have questions about foreign earned income and offshore financial assets in a bank or brokerage account, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

IRS Scam Alert: Erroneous Refunds & Fake Calls

Taxpayers should be aware of a new twist on an old scam involving erroneous tax refunds that are being deposited into their bank accounts. After stealing client data and filing fraudulent tax returns, these criminals use the taxpayers' real bank accounts to deposit refunds, then use various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers. Here's what you need to know.

Different Versions of the Scam

In one version of the scam, criminals posing as debt collection agency officials acting on behalf of the IRS contacted the taxpayers to say a refund was deposited in error, and they asked the taxpayers to forward the money to their collection agency. In another version, the taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice saying he is from the IRS and threatens the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant and a "blacklisting" of their Social Security Number. The recorded voice gives the taxpayer a case number and a telephone number to call to return the refund.

What to do if your Tax Return is Rejected

Because this is a peak season for filing tax returns, taxpayers who file electronically may find that their tax return is rejected because a return bearing their Social Security number is already on file. If that's the case, taxpayers should follow the steps outlined below. If you need additional information, please read the IRS publication, Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft and contact the office if you have any questions. If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends taking these steps:
  • File a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a 'fraud alert' on your credit records:
    • Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 800-525-6285
    • Experian, www.Experian.com, 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 800-680-7289
  • Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, don't hesitate to contact the office. You may also call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490 if you need specialized assistance. Taxpayers unable to file electronically should mail a paper tax return along with Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, stating they were victims of a tax preparer data breach.

How to Return an Erroneous Refund to the IRS

Taxpayers who receive the refunds should call the office immediately, as well as review the steps outlined in Tax Topic Number 161, Returning an Erroneous Refund, which includes IRS mailing addresses should there be a need to return paper checks.
Note: By law, interest may accrue on erroneous refunds.
If the erroneous refund was a direct deposit:
  1. Contact the Automated Clearing House (ACH) department of the bank/financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS.
  2. Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 (individual) or 800-829-4933 (business) to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.
If the erroneous refund was a paper check and hasn't been cashed:
  1. Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  2. Submit the check immediately to the appropriate IRS location. The location is based on the city (possibly abbreviated) on the bottom text line in front of the words "TAX REFUND" on your refund check. Please contact the office for assistance if you aren't sure what the correct IRS location is.
  3. Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  4. Include a note stating, "Return of erroneous refund check because (and give a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund check)."
The erroneous refund was a paper check and you have cashed it:
  • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • If you no longer have access to a copy of the check, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 (individual) or 800-829-4933 (business) (see telephone and local assistance for hours of operation) and explain to the IRS assistor that you need information to repay a cashed refund check.
  • Write on the check/money order: Payment of Erroneous Refund, the tax period for which the refund was issued, and your taxpayer identification number (social security number, employer identification number, or individual taxpayer identification number).
  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund.
  • Repaying an erroneous refund in this manner may result in interest due to the IRS.

Help is just a phone call away!

If you receive a refund in error, you will need to follow established procedures for returning it to the agency as soon as possible. You should also notify your financial institution because there may be a need to close bank accounts. If you need assistance with this or any other tax matter, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

April 1 Deadline for Retirement Plan Distributions

In most cases, taxpayers who turned 70 1/2 during 2017 must start receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by Sunday, April 1, 2018. The April 1 deadline applies to owners of traditional (including SEP and SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs. Normally, it also applies to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans. The April 1 deadline only applies to the required distribution for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by December 31. In other words, a taxpayer who turned 70 1/2 in 2017 (born after June 30, 1946, and before July 1, 1947) and receives the first required distribution (for 2017) on April 1, 2018, for example, must still receive the second RMD by December 31, 2018. Affected taxpayers who turned 70 1/2 during 2017 must figure the RMD for the first year using the life expectancy as of their birthday in 2017 and their account balance on December 31, 2016. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information in Box 5. Worksheets and life expectancy tables for making this computation can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Most taxpayers use Table III (Uniform Lifetime) to figure their RMD. For a taxpayer who reached age 70 1/2 in 2017 and turned 71 before the end of the year, for example, the first required distribution would be based on a distribution period of 26.5 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer married to a spouse who is more than 10 years younger and is the taxpayer's only beneficiary. Both tables can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B. Though the April 1 deadline is mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and most participants in workplace retirement plans, some people with workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMD. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals. Taxpayers are encouraged to begin planning now for any distributions required during 2018. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount in Box 12b on Form 5498. For a 2018 RMD, this amount would be on the 2017 Form 5498 that is normally issued in January 2018. IRA owners can use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) paid directly from an IRA to an eligible charity to meet part or all of their RMD obligation. Available only to IRA owners 70 1/2 or older, the maximum annual exclusion for QCDs is $100,000. If you have any questions about QCDs or need more information about RMDs, don't hesitate to contact the office today. Go to top

Revised Form W-4: Check your Withholding

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing the tax rates and brackets. As such, a new version of Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, was released on February 28. Taxpayers with less complex tax situations--single, married couples with only one job, or those who have no dependents, and who have not claimed itemized deductions, adjustments to income or tax credits--might not need to make any changes to their withholding or revise their Forms W-4. Taxpayers with more complicated financial situations, however, might need to revise their W-4. Among the groups who should check their withholding are:
  • Two-income families.
  • People with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year.
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017.
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns.
To determine whether changes to withholding should be made for 2018, taxpayers should first check the updated IRS Withholding Calculator to make sure they have the right amount of tax taken out of their paychecks. If a taxpayer needs to fill out a new Form W-4, they should do so and then submit the new Form W-4 to their employer. The withholding changes do not affect 2017 tax returns due this April. However, having a completed 2017 tax return can help taxpayers work with the Withholding Calculator to determine their proper withholding for 2018 and avoid issues when they file next year. If you have any questions about the amount you should be withholding on Form W-4, please call. Go to top

There's Still Time to Make a 2017 IRA Contribution

If you haven't contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) for tax year 2017, or if you've put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 17 due date, not including extensions. Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for 2017. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for 2018 when they get your funds. Generally, you can contribute up to $5,500 of your earnings for tax year 2017 (up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or older in 2017). You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these amounts. Traditional IRA: You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse, if filing jointly, are covered by an employer's pension plan. Roth IRA: You cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution. Saving for retirement should be part of everyone's financial plan and it's important to review your retirement goals every year in order to maximize savings. If you need help figuring out which retirement strategies are best for your situation, give the office a call. Go to top

Do you Qualify for a Healthcare Exemption?

With the 2018 tax filing season in full swing, it's not too early to think about how the health care law affects your taxes. The Affordable Care Act requires you and each member of your family to do at least one of the following:
  • Have qualifying health coverage called minimum essential coverage
  • Qualify for a health coverage exemption
  • Make a shared responsibility payment with your federal income tax return for the months that you did not have coverage or an exemption
If you meet certain criteria for the tax year, you may be exempt from the requirement to have minimum essential coverage. You will not have to make a shared responsibility payment for any month that you are exempt. Instead, you'll file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, with your federal income tax return. For any month that you do not qualify for a coverage exemption, you will need to have minimum essential coverage or make a shared responsibility payment. You may be exempt if you meet one of the following:
  • The lowest-cost coverage available to you is considered unaffordable
  • You have a gap in coverage that is less than three (3) consecutive months
  • You qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage or belonging to a group specifically exempt from the coverage requirement
The Federally-facilitated Marketplace is no longer granting exemptions for members of a health care sharing ministry, members of Indian Tribes, and incarceration. Eligible individuals can still claim these exemptions on a tax return. For a full list of exemptions and how to claim them, please call. Federal tax returns that do not reflect at least one of these options--reporting health care coverage, claiming a coverage exemption or reporting a shared responsibility payment--will be rejected if the return is filed electronically. If filed on paper, tax returns that do not reflect at least one of these options will take longer to process and any refunds will be delayed. You should respond promptly to IRS correspondence about your health care coverage. Questions? To find out if you're eligible for a coverage exemption or must make a payment, don't hesitate to contact the office. Go to top

Hurricane Victims may Qualify for EITC

Taxpayers whose incomes dropped in 2017 due to last year's hurricanes--especially those who lived in areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria--may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a credit for low and moderate income workers and families. Here's how it works: If you lived in one of the federally declared hurricane disaster areas during 2017, you may be able to use a special computation method that enables you to claim the EITC or claim a larger than usual credit. This special method is only available to people who lived in a hurricane disaster area. Under this method, taxpayers whose incomes dropped in 2017 can choose to figure the credit using their 2016 earned income rather than their 2017 earned income. Eligible taxpayers should figure the credit both ways to see which yields the larger EITC. About the EITC The EITC helps working people who earned $53,930 or less for 2017 (adjusted annually for inflation). To claim the credit taxpayers must also meet other eligibility requirements. The maximum refund is $6,318 refund for working families with qualifying children; however, actual credit amounts vary based on income, family size, and other factors. Workers without a qualifying child with incomes below $20,600 could also be eligible for a smaller credit of up to $510. Because it is a refundable credit, those who qualify and claim it could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or may even get a refund. On average, EITC adds $2,445 to refunds. To take the credit, people must file a tax return, even if they owe no tax and even if they normally aren't required to file. To qualify for the EITC, an eligible taxpayer must meet basic rules and have earned income from working for someone, being self-employed or running a business or farm. This includes home-based businesses, the sharing economy, and employment in the service, construction and agriculture industries. In addition, certain disability payments may qualify as earned income for EITC purposes.
Reminder: By law the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February for tax returns that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS must hold the entire refund--even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC. This change helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they deserve and gives the agency more time to detect and prevent errors and fraud.February 27, 2018, is the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds arrive in taxpayer bank accounts or debit cards--if they chose direct deposit and there are no issues with the tax return.
For more information about the EITC and other refundable credits, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tracking Time in QuickBooks, Part 1

When you sell a product to a customer, you know it. It goes away, and your inventory count in QuickBooks is reduced by one. This tracking helps you know what is selling and what is not, and it signals when a reorder is due. If your business provides services to customers, though, you are selling your employees' time and skills. There's no inventory count; you can sell as many hours as you have workers to fill them. Tracking time accurately and comprehensively, though, is as important as knowing how many hard drives or tote bags you've sold. QuickBooks contains tools to help you record the number of hours employees spend doing work for customers, so you can bill them for services rendered. You can also use these same features to enter employee time for payroll purposes. The software offers two options here: single-activity records and timesheets.

Building the Foundation

QuickBooks' Preferences have been many times before. The software was designed to support small businesses with a wide variety of structures and needs, so it needs to be flexible. For that reason, we always recommend that you check in with your "Preference" options before you explore new features. To get to the preference options open the Edit menu and select Preferences. In the left vertical pane, click on Time & Expenses, then on the Company Preferences tab at the top. Take a look at the top part of the window that opens: Figure 1: The Company Preferences window for Time & Expenses displays multiple options. To make sure that QuickBooks' time-tracking features are turned on before you start, click the button next to Yes under Do you track time? Specify the First Day of Work Week by opening that drop-down list. If you know that all your time entries will be billable, click in the box in front of that statement. The other options in that window will be discussed next month in Part 2.

Creating Service Items

Before you can start tracking billable time, you have to create a record for each service offered--just like you would for a physical product. Click the Items & Services icon on the home page or open the Lists menu and select Item List. The window that opens will eventually display a table containing all the items and services you've created. To define a service item, click Item in the lower left corner, then New, to open a window like this: Figure 2: You can create numerous types of items in QuickBooks; Service is one of them. Click the down arrow in the field under Type to see your options here. There are many, ranging from Service to Inventory Part to Sales Tax Group. Select Service. In the field under Item Name/Number, enter a word or phrase and/or number that describes the service, and that won't get confused with another. If you had already created an item like "New Construction Services" and you wanted "Carpet Installation" to appear as a subitem of it, you would click in the box in front of Subitem of to create a check mark, then open the drop-down list below it and select "New Construction Services." Ignore the Unit of Measure section. If this designation is important to your business, call the office about upgrading your version of QuickBooks. You should also contact the office if the service you are defining is used in assemblies or is performed by a subcontractor or partner, as these are more advanced situations. Enter a brief Description in that box and your hourly charge--to the customer--in the field to the right ofRate. Click the down arrow in the field next to Tax Code to select the item's taxable status. It is very important that you get the next field right. QuickBooks wants to know which account in your company's Chart of Accounts should be assigned to this item. In this case, it would be "Construction Income." If you are not yet familiar with the concept of assigning accounts, please call to set up a session with a QuickBooks pro in the office to deal with this and other basic knowledge you should have. When you are done, click OK. Stay tuned for next month when the focus is on entering time items in records and timesheets. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for March 2018

March 1

Farmers and Fishermen - File your 2017 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due. However, you have until April 17 to file if you paid your 2017 estimated tax by January 16, 2018.

March 12

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during February, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

March 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in February. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in February. Partnerships - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). Provide each partner with a copy of their Schedule K-1 (form 1065-B) or substitute Schedule K-1. To request an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 7004. Then file the return and provide each partner with a copy of their final or amended (if required) Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) by September 17. S Corporations - File a 2017 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S), Shareholder's Share of Income, Credits, Deductions, etc., or a substitute Schedule K-1. If you want an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 7004 and deposit what you estimate you owe. Electing large partnerships - File a 2017 calendar year return (Form 1065-B). Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065-B), Partner's Share of Income (Loss) From an Electing Large Partnership. This due date applies even if the partnership requests an extension of time to file the Form 7004. S Corporation Election - File Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to choose to be treated as an S corporation beginning with calendar year 2018. If Form 2553 is filed late, S treatment will begin with calendar year 2019.

April 2

Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 - File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 with the IRS (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation). This due date applies only if you file electronically. Otherwise, see February 28. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains January 31. Electronic Filing of Form W-2G - File copies of all the Form W-2G (Certain Gambling Winnings) you issued for 2017. This due date applies only if you electronically file. Otherwise, see February 28. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains January 31. Electronic Filing of Forms 8027 - File copies of all the Forms 8027 you issued for 2017. This due date applies only if you electronically file. Otherwise, see February 28. Electronic Filing of Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and Forms 1094-B and 1094-B - If you're an applicable Large Employer, file electronic forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of essential minimum coverage, file electronic Forms 1094-B and 1095-B with the IRS. Otherwise, see February 28. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

February 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Missing Important Tax Forms? Here's what to do

Form W-2

You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from each of your employers for use in preparing your federal tax return. Employers must furnish this record of 2017 earnings and withheld taxes no later than January 31, 2018 (allow several days for delivery if mailed). If you do not receive your Form W-2, contact your employer to find out if and when the W-2 was mailed. If it was mailed, it may have been returned to your employer because of an incorrect address. After contacting your employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for your employer to resend or to issue the W-2.

Form 1099

If you received certain types of income, you may receive a Form 1099 in addition to or instead of a W-2. Payers have until January 31 to mail these to you. In some cases, you may obtain the information that would be on the Form 1099 from other sources. For example, your bank may put a summary of the interest paid during the year on the December or January statement for your savings or checking account. Or it may make the interest figure available through its customer service line or Web site. Some payers include cumulative figures for the year with their quarterly dividend statements. You do not have to wait for Form 1099 to arrive provided you have the information (actual not estimated) you need to complete your tax return. You generally do not attach a 1099 series form to your return, except when you receive a Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., that shows income tax withheld. You should, however, keep all of the 1099 forms you receive for your records.

When to Contact the IRS

If, by mid-February, you still have not received your W-2 or Form 1099-R, contact the IRS for assistance at 1-800-829-1040. When you call, have the following information handy:
  • the employer's name and complete address, including zip code, and the employer's telephone number;
  • the employer's identification number (if known);
  • your name and address, including zip code, Social Security number, and telephone number.

Misplaced W-2

If you misplaced your W-2, contact your employer. Your employer can replace the lost form with a "reissued statement." Be aware that your employer is allowed to charge you a fee for providing you with a new W-2. You still must file your tax return on time even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you cannot get a W-2 by the tax filing deadline, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, but it will delay any refund due while the information is verified.

Filing an Amended Return

If you receive a corrected W-2 or 1099 after your return is filed and the information it contains does not match the income or withheld tax that you reported on your return, you must file an amended return on Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Health Insurance Forms 1095-A, 1095-B, or 1095-C

Most taxpayers will receive one or more forms relating to health care coverage they had during the previous year. If you think you should have received a form but did not get one contact the issuer of the form (the Marketplace, your coverage provider or your employer). If you are expecting to receive a Form 1095-A, you should wait to file your 2017 income tax return until you receive that form. However, it is not necessary to wait for Forms 1095-B or 1095-C in order to file. Form 1095-A. If you enrolled in 2017 coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement in early 2018. Forms 1095-B or 1095-C. If you were enrolled in other health coverage for 2017, you should receive a Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, or Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health insurance Offer and Coverage by early March. If you have questions about your Forms W-2 or 1099 or any other tax-related materials, don't hesitate to contact the office. Go to top

Tips for a Stress-Free Tax Season

Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes but many people find preparing their tax return to be stressful and frustrating. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. Here are six tips for a stress-free tax season.
  1. Don't Procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Your haste to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error. Getting a head start will not only keep the process calm but also mean you get your return faster by avoiding the last-minute rush.
  2. Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don't forget to save a copy for your files.
  3. Double-check your math and verify all Social Security numbers. These are among the most common errors found on tax returns. Taking care will reduce your chance of hearing from the IRS. Submitting an error-free return will also speed up your refund.
  4. E-file for a faster refund. Taxpayers who e-file and choose direct deposit for their refunds, for example, will get their refunds in as few as 10 days. That compares to approximately six weeks for people who file a paper return and get a traditional paper check.
  5. Don't Panic if You Can't Pay. If you can't immediately pay the taxes you owe, consider some stress-reducing alternatives. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate. You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee. Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government's financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the April due date, with no fee.
  6. Request an Extension of Time to File (But Pay on Time). If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension bringing the filing date to October 15, 2018. However, the extension itself does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.
If you run into any problems, have any questions, or need to file an extension, help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Donating a Car to Charity

If you donated a car to a qualified charitable organization in 2017 and intend to claim a deduction, you should be aware of the special rules that apply to vehicle donations.
Note: You can deduct contributions to a charity only if you itemize deductions using Schedule A of Form 1040.
Charities typically sell donated vehicles. If the vehicle is sold by the charitable organization you donated it to, the deduction claimed by the donor (you) and usually may not exceed the gross proceeds from the sale. If the donated vehicle sells for less than $500, you can claim the fair market value of your vehicle up to $500 or the amount it is sold for if less than fair market value. The taxpayer can generally deduct the vehicle's Fair Market Value (FMV), if:
  • The charitable organization makes a significant intervening use of the vehicle, such as using it to deliver meals on wheels.
  • The charitable organization donates or sells the vehicle to a needy individual at a significantly below-market price, if the transfer furthers the charitable purpose of helping a poor person in need of a means of transportation.
  • The charitable organization makes a material improvement to the vehicle, i.e., major repairs that significantly increase its value and not mere painting or cleaning.
If the donated vehicle sells for more than $500 and your deduction is $500 or more you must obtain written, contemporaneous (timely), acknowledgment of the donation from the charitable organization. You must also attach Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, to your tax return. The written acknowledgment generally must include your name and taxpayer identification number, the vehicle identification number, the date of the contribution, and one of the following:
  • a statement that no goods or services were provided by the charity in return for the donation, if that was the case,
  • a description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services, if any, that the charity provided in return for the donation, or,
  • a statement that goods or services provided by the charity consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, if that was the case.
Note: If the written acknowledgment does not contain all of the required information, the deduction may not exceed $500.
For more information about donating a car to charity please contact the office. Go to top

Federal Tax Forms: Which one should you use?

U.S. citizens and resident aliens use one of three different forms for filing individual federal income tax returns: 1040EZ, 1040A, or 1040. If you're wondering which form you should use, keep reading.

Form 1040EZ

Form 1040EZ, Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents, is the least complicated federal tax form. however, if you file Form 1040EZ, you should be aware that you can't itemize deductions or claim any adjustments to income or tax credits other than the earned income credit. Use Form 1040EZ if:
  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly, you claim no dependents, and were under age 65 on January 1, 2018, and not blind at the end of 2017
  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000 and is derived only from wages, salaries, tips, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants, unemployment compensation, or Alaska Permanent Fund dividends
  • Your taxable interest is not over $1,500
  • You don't owe any household employment taxes on wages you paid to a household employee
Note: You can't use Form 1040EZ to claim the Premium Tax Credit. You also can't use this form if you received advance payments of this credit in 2017.

Form 1040A

If you cannot use Form 1040EZ, you may be able to use Form 1040A, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot itemize and you can only claim certain tax deductions such as the IRA deduction, the student loan interest deduction, and the educator expenses deduction. You can also use Form 1040A if:
  • Your taxable income is below $100,000 and that income is derived only from the following:
    • wages, salaries, tips,
    • Interest or ordinary dividends,
    • capital gain distributions,
    • taxable scholarships and fellowship grants,
    • pensions, annuities, IRAs,
    • unemployment compensation,
    • Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, and
    • taxable social security or railroad retirement benefits
  • The only tax credits you can claim are:
    • the credit for child and dependent care expenses,
    • the credit for the elderly or the disabled,
    • education credits,
    • the retirement savings contributions credit,
    • the child tax credit,
    • the additional child tax credit,
    • the earned income credit, and/or the premium tax credit
  • You do not have an alternative minimum tax adjustment on stock you acquired from the exercise of an incentive stock option.
  • You have distributions from capital gains

Form 1040

You must use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, if:
  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more.
  • You have certain types of income, such as:
    • business or farm self-employment income;
    • unreported tips;
    • dividends on insurance policies that exceed the total of all net premiums you paid for the contract;
    • income received as a partner, a shareholder in an S corporation, or
    • a beneficiary of an estate or trust
  • You itemize deductions or claim certain tax credits or adjustments to income.
  • You report self-employment income.
  • You report income from sale of a property.
  • You owe household employment taxes.

Nonresident Aliens

Nonresident aliens married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien may use any one of these three forms, based on your circumstances, but only if you elect to be treated as a resident alien when you file a joint return with your spouse. Nonresident aliens may have to file Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR. Questions about federal tax forms? Call or make an appointment today and get the answers you need right now. Go to top

Five Tax Breaks that Survived Tax Reform

Recent tax reform legislation affected many provisions in the tax code. Many were modified, either permanently or temporarily, while some were repealed entirely. Here are five that survived. 1. Mortgage Interest Deduction While the House bill repealed the mortgage interest deduction, the final version of the act retained it, albeit with modifications. First is that the allowed interest deduction is limited to mortgage principal of $750,000 on new homes (i.e., new ownership). For prior tax years, the limit on acquisition indebtedness was $1 million. Existing mortgages are grandfathered in, however, and taxpayers who enter into binding contracts before December 15, 2017, to close on the purchase of a principal residence before January 1, 2018, and who purchase such residence before April 1, 2018, are able to use the prior limit of $1 million. 2. Personal Taxes: State and Local Income Tax, Sales Tax and Property Tax In prior years, taxpayers who itemize were allowed to deduct the amount they pay in state and local taxes (SALT) from their federal tax returns. Slated for repeal (with the sole exception of exception of a state and local property tax deduction capped at $10,000) under both the House and Senate versions of the tax bill, SALT remained in the final tax reform bill in modified form. As such, for taxable years 2018 through 2025, the aggregate deduction for property taxes, state, local, and foreign income taxes, or sales taxes is limited to $10,000 a year ($5,000 married filing separately). 3. Educator Expense Deduction Primary and secondary school teachers buying school supplies out-of-pocket are still able to take an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for unreimbursed expenses. Expenses incurred for professional development are also eligible. This deduction was made permanent with the passage of PATH Act of 2015 and survived tax reform legislation that passed in 2017 as well. 4. Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Tax Credit Also slated for elimination in the House bill (but retained in the final tax reform bill) was the tax credit for the purchase of qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles including passenger vehicles and light trucks. For vehicles acquired after December 31, 2009, the minimum credit is $2,500. The maximum credit allowed is limited to $7,500. The credit begins to phase out for a manufacturer's vehicles when at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009). 5. Medical Expense Threshold Amounts The House version proposed a repeal of the itemized deduction related to medical expenses but it was retained (and temporarily lowered) in the final tax reform legislation. For tax years 2017 and 2018, the threshold amount for medical expense deductions is reduced to 7.5 percent of AGI. Under the PATH Act of 2015, the medical expense deduction increased to 10% of AGI (effective for tax years 2013 to 2016). Don't miss out! If you're wondering whether you should be taking advantage of these and other tax credits and deductions, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Filing Season Begins; Tax Returns due April 17

More than 155 million individual tax returns are expected to be filed in 2018, according to the IRS, which began accepting electronic and paper tax returns on Monday, January 29, 2018. The January 29 opening date was set to ensure the security and readiness of key tax processing systems in advance of the opening and to assess the potential impact of tax legislation on 2017 tax returns.
Note: Although the IRS began accepting both electronic and paper tax returns January 29, paper returns will not begin processing until mid-February as system updates continue.
April 17 Filing Deadline The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday (April 16). However, Emancipation Day, which is a legal holiday in the District of Columbia, will be observed on that Monday. This pushes the nation's filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation. Refunds in 2018 The IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind. The IRS will begin releasing refunds for taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) starting February 15. However, these refunds--even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC--are not likely to arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of February 27. This date assumes that there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit. Taxpayers should be aware that many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers. For example, the three-day holiday weekend involving Presidents' Day may affect the timing of refunds for EITC and ACTC filers. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or need assistance filing your tax return this year. Go to top

Who Should File a 2017 Tax Return?

Most people file a tax return because they have to, but even if you don't, there are times when you should--because you might be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. The six tax tips below should help you determine whether you're one of them. 1. General Filing Rules. Whether you need to file a tax return this year depends on several factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status, and your age determine whether you must file a tax return. For example, if you're single and 28 years old you must file if your income, was at least $10,400 ($20,800 if you are married filing a joint return). If you're self-employed or if you're a dependent of another person, other tax rules may apply. 2. Premium Tax Credit. If you purchased coverage from the Marketplace in 2017 you might be eligible for the Premium Tax Credit if you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during the year; however, you must file a federal tax return and reconcile any advance payments with the allowable premium tax credit. 3. Tax Withheld or Paid. Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year's tax? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be due a refund, but you have to file a tax return to receive the refund. 4. Earned Income Tax Credit. Did you work and earn less than $53,930 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,318. If you qualify, file a tax return to claim it. 5. Additional Child Tax Credit. Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don't get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit and receive a refund even if you do not owe any tax. 6. American Opportunity Credit. The AOTC (up to $2,500 per eligible student) is available for four years of post-secondary education. You or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period. Even if you don't owe any taxes, you still may qualify; however, you must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim the credit. If you have any questions about whether you should file a return, please contact the office. Go to top

Updated Withholding Tables for 2018

Updated income-tax withholding tables have been released for 2018 reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. The updated withholding information, available on IRS.gov, shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than February 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables. Many employees will begin to see increases in their paychecks to reflect the new law in February. The time it will take for employees to see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid, generally weekly, biweekly or monthly. To minimize the burden on taxpayers and employers, the new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. Employees do not have to do anything at this time. Under the new law there are a number of changes for 2018 that affect individual taxpayers. The new withholding tables reflect the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates and brackets. For people with more simple tax situations, the new tables are designed to produce the correct amount of tax withholding. The revisions are also aimed at avoiding over- and under-withholding of tax as much as possible. To help people determine their withholding (and adjust as needed), the IRS is revising the withholding tax calculator on IRS.gov and should be available by the end of February. Don't hesitate to call if you need help figuring out your withholding in 2018. Go to top

Employers: Beware of the Form W-2 Scam

The Form W-2 scam has emerged as one of the most dangerous phishing emails in the tax community. During the last two tax seasons, cybercriminals tricked payroll personnel or people with access to payroll information into disclosing sensitive information for entire workforces. Last year, more than 200 employers were victimized, resulting in hundreds of thousands of employees with compromised identities. The scam affected all types of employers, from small and large businesses to public schools and universities, hospitals, tribal governments, and charities. What is a Form W-2? Employers engaged in a trade or business who pay remuneration for services performed by an employee must file a Form W-2 for each employee from whom:
  • Income, social security, or Medicare tax was withheld.
  • Income tax would have been withheld if the employee had claimed no more than one withholding allowance or had not claimed exemption from withholding on Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate.
Additionally, employers must issue W-2s to any employee (including an employee who is related to the employer) who had the following:
  • Non-cash payments of $600 or more for the year
  • Non-cash payments of any amount if any income, social security, or Medicare tax was withheld
The Form W-2 contains the employee's name, address, Social Security number, income, and withholdings. Criminals use that information to file fraudulent tax returns, or they post it for sale on the DarkNet. How the Form W-2 Phishing Scam Works Cybercriminals do their homework, identifying chief operating officers, school executives or others in positions of authority. Using a technique known as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES), fraudsters posing as executives send emails to payroll personnel requesting copies of Forms W-2 for all employees. In many cases, the email starts off as a friendly exchange before the fraudster asks for all Form W-2 information. In several reported cases, after the fraudsters acquired the workforce information, they immediately followed that up with a request for a wire transfer. What to do Employers should be aware that cyber criminals' scams constantly evolve. Finance and payroll personnel should be alert to any unusual requests for employee data. If your businesses or organization falls victim to the scam or receives a suspect email but does not fall victim to the scam send the full email headers to phishing@irs.gov and use "W2 Scam" in the subject line. Go to top

Owing Back Taxes could Affect Passport Renewal

Starting in February 2018, individuals with "seriously delinquent tax debts" will be subject to a new set of provisions courtesy of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into law in December 2015. The FAST Act requires the IRS to notify the State Department of taxpayers the IRS has certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt and also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In certain instances, the State Department may revoke their passport. Taxpayers affected by this law are those with a seriously delinquent tax debt, generally, an individual who owes the IRS more than $51,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired, or the IRS has issued a levy. Taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify the State Department of their seriously delinquent tax debt by doing the following:
  • Paying the tax debt in full
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the
  • Department of Justice,
  • Having requested or have a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.
However, a taxpayer's passport won't be at risk under this program if an individual:
  • Is in bankruptcy
  • Is identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft
  • Has an account that the IRS has determined is currently not collectible due to hardship
  • Is located within a federally declared disaster area
  • Has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement
  • Has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS
  • Has an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full
For taxpayers serving in a combat zone, and who also owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department and the individual's passport is not subject to denial during this time. Taxpayers who are behind on their tax obligations should come forward and pay what they owe or enter into a payment plan with the IRS and may qualify for one of several relief programs, including the following:
  • Taxpayers can request a payment agreement with the IRS by filing Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. Taxpayers can download this form from IRS.gov and mail it along with a tax return, bill or notice. Some taxpayers may be eligible to use the online payment agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months.
  • Financially distressed taxpayers may qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer's tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer's income and assets to determine the taxpayer's ability to pay.
If you owe back taxes and are worried your passport could be revoked because of unpaid taxes, please contact the office. Go to top

Are You Using QuickBooks' Reminders?

How do you know when it's time to pay a bill or follow up on overdue customer payments or print payroll checks? If you are still using a paper calendar and sticky notes and file folders, there is a good chance you are missing some important deadlines on occasion. Manual methods are often not effective (or accurate) enough when you are dealing with your business finances and you could experience the following scenarios:
  • Credit problems.
  • Overextended customers.
  • Unhappy vendors and employees.
If you are missing the mark frequently, you won't be able to get a true picture of your financial status, and your cash flow will suffer. Use QuickBooks' built-in reminders to avoid this unnecessary drama; here is how they work.

Totally Customizable

To start setting up Reminders, open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click Remindersin the left vertical pane. With the My Preferences tab highlighted, click in the box in front of Show Reminders List when opening a Company file to create a checkmark. Then click on the Company Preferences tab to open this window: Figure 1: When you're setting up your Preferences for QuickBooks' Reminders, you can customize each type in multiple ways. As you can see in the above image, QuickBooks lets you create reminders for a wide variety of actions. For each, you can indicate whether the Reminders window will display a summary or a list, or whether that particular activity will not be included. For those that are time-sensitive, like Checks to Print, you will also be able to specify how much warning you will get and how many days in advance each item will appear in the Reminders list.

My Preferences vs Company Preferences

If you haven't worked much with QuickBooks' Preferences, you may not understand the difference between the two tabs that appear in each window. Only the QuickBooks Administrator can make changes on the Company Preferences page since these affect company-wide settings. All users, though, can change any options that appear in the My Preferences window. Here is an example of a Preference (General) where all employees can indicate how they want QuickBooks to work for them specifically: Figure 2: Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then General to open this window. Everyone who uses QuickBooks can set up their Preferences here, but only the administrator can modify Company Preferences.

Using Reminders

If you indicated in My Preferences that you want the Reminders window to open every time you open your company file in QuickBooks, it should appear on top of your desktop. If you didn't, or if you need to see it after you've closed it, open the Company menu and select Reminders. A link should also be available in the toolbar. Using the Reminders tool is like using any other interactive to-do list. Figure 3: QuickBooks' Reminders window displays the tasks you need to do today and in the near future. You can click the arrows to the left of each boldfaced category to expand or collapse the list. The left pane of the window displays tasks that must be done today, while the right shows upcoming tasks. Small arrows to the left of each task category expand and collapse each section when you click on them. Double-click a task (not the category label), and the relevant form or other document opens. When you've completed the chore, it will disappear from the list. There are two icons in the upper right of the window (not pictured here). Click the plus (+)sign, and the Add To Do window opens. You can create six types of to-do items here: call, fax, e-mail, meeting, appointment, and task. Each can be assigned to a customer, vendor, or employee, or earmarked as a lead. You can designate a priority (low, medium, high) and a status (active, inactive, done) to each. You can also assign a time and date due, and enter descriptive details. Each to-do then appears in the appropriate place in QuickBooks. The other icon, a small gear, opens your Preferences for Reminders. The mechanics of setting up your Reminders window are not difficult. What can be a challenge is watching your cash flow as all these transactions occur. If you are struggling with that, please call and ask to meet with a QuickBooks expert who will help you develop a plan for keeping your cash flow positive while meeting your financial obligations. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for February 2018

February 12

Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time. Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. This tax due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2017 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time. Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

February 15

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January. All businesses. Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2017. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. This due date applies only to the following types of payments:
  • All payments reported on Form 1099-B, Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions.
  • All payments reported on Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions.
  • Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099-MISC.

February 28

Businesses - File information returns (Form 1099) for certain payments you made during 2017. These payments are described under January 31; however, Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation must be filed by January 31. There are different forms for different types of payments. Use a separate Form 1096 to summarize and transmit the forms for each type of payment. See the 2017 Instructions for Forms 1099, 1098, 5498, and W-2G for information on what payments are covered, how much the payment must be before a return is required, what form to use, and extensions of time to file. If you file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, or W-2G electronically (except Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation), your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 2. The due date for giving the recipient these forms is still January 31. Payers of Gambling Winnings - File Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2G you issued for 2017. If you file Forms W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 2. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains January 31. Large Food and Beverage Establishment Employers - with employees who work for tips. File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027-T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to April 2. Health Coverage Reporting - If you're an Applicable Large Employer, file paper Forms 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, file paper Forms 1094-B, Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-B with the IRS. If you're filing any of these forms with the IRS electronically, your due date for filing them will be extended to April 2.

March 1

Farmers and Fishermen - Farmers and fishermen. File your 2017 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due. However, you have until April 17 to file if you paid your 2017 estimated tax by January 16, 2018. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

January 2018 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Important Tax Changes for 2018

As the New Year rolls around, it's always a sure bet that there will be changes to current tax law and 2018 is no different now that many of the tax provisions pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) are in full effect. From health savings accounts to tax rate schedules and standard deductions, here's a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.

Individuals

In 2018, a number of tax provisions are affected by inflation adjustments, including Health Savings Accounts, retirement contribution limits, and the foreign earned income exclusion. Many others have been revised or eliminated due to the TCJA. While the tax rate structure, which now ranges from 10 to 37 percent, remains similar to 2017 in that there are seven tax brackets, the tax-bracket thresholds increase significantly for each filing status. Standard deductions also rise significantly; however, personal exemptions have been eliminated through tax year 2025. Standard Deduction In 2018, the standard deduction increases to $12,000 for individuals (up from $6,350 in 2017) and to $24,000 for married couples (up from $12,700 in 2017). Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) In 2018, AMT exemption amounts increase to $70,300 for individuals (up from $54,300 in 2017) and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly (up from $84,500 in 2017). Also, the phaseout threshold increases to $500,000 ($1 million for married filing jointly). Both the exemption and threshold amounts are indexed for inflation. "Kiddie Tax"  For taxable years beginning in 2018, the amount that can be used to reduce the net unearned income reported on the child's return that is subject to the "kiddie tax," is $1,050 (same as 2017). The same $1,050 amount is used to determine whether a parent may elect to include a child's gross income in the parent's gross income and to calculate the "kiddie tax." For example, one of the requirements for the parental election is that a child's gross income for 2018 must be more than $1,050 but less than $10,500. For 2018, the net unearned income for a child under the age of 19 (or a full-time student under the age of 24) that is not subject to "kiddie tax" is $2,100. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) Contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. Medical expenses must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return. A qualified individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care. For calendar year 2018, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,650 for self-only coverage and $13,300 for family coverage. Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) There are two types of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs): the Archer MSA created to help self-employed individuals and employees of certain small employers, and the Medicare Advantage MSA, which is also an Archer MSA, and is designated by Medicare to be used solely to pay the qualified medical expenses of the account holder. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage MSA, you must be enrolled in Medicare. Both MSAs require that you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).
Self-only coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2018, the term "high deductible health plan" means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,300 (up $50 from 2017) and not more than $3,450 (up $100 from 2017), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,550 (up $100 from 2017).Family coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2018, the term "high deductible health plan" means, for family coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $4,550 and not more than $6,850 (up $100 from 2017), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $8,400 (up $150 from 2017).
Penalty for not Maintaining Minimum Essential Health Coverage Under the TCJA, the penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage has been eliminated but only for months beginning after December 31, 2018. AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses In 2018, the deduction threshold for deductible medical expenses is temporarily reduced to 7.5% percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). This is retroactive to the tax year starting Jan. 1, 2017 and ends on Dec. 31, 2018. Eligible Long-Term Care Premiums Premiums for long-term care are treated the same as health care premiums and are deductible on your taxes subject to certain limitations. For individuals age 40 or younger at the end of 2018, the limitation is $420. Persons more than 40 but not more than 50 can deduct $780. Those more than 50 but not more than 60 can deduct $1,530 while individuals more than 60 but not more than 70 can deduct $4,160. The maximum deduction is $5,200 and applies to anyone more than 70 years of age. Medicare Taxes  The additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals ($250,000 married filing jointly), which went into effect in 2013, remains in effect for 2018, as does the Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on investment (unearned) income for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (AGI) more than $200,000 ($250,000 joint filers). Investment income includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, gains from the disposition of property, and certain passive activity income. Estates, trusts, and self-employed individuals are all liable for the new tax. Foreign Earned Income Exclusion For 2018, the foreign earned income exclusion amount is $103,900, up from $102,100 in 2017. Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends In 2018 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2017 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however threshold amounts are different in that they don't correspond to new tax bracket structure as they did in the past. For taxpayers in the lower tax brackets (10 and 12 percent), the rate remains 0 percent; however, the threshold amounts are $38,600 for individuals and $77,200 for married filing jointly. For taxpayers in the four middle tax brackets, 22, 24, 32, and 35 percent, the rate is 15 percent. For an individual taxpayer in the highest tax bracket, 37 percent, whose income is at or above $425,800 ($479,000 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent. Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)  Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been eliminated under TCJA. Estate and Gift Taxes  For an estate of any decedent during calendar year 2018, the basic exclusion amount is $11.18 million, indexed for inflation (up from $5,490,000 in 2017). The maximum tax rate remains at 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts increases to $15,000.

Individuals - Tax Credits

Adoption Credit In 2018, a non-refundable (only those individuals with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $13,810 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child. Earned Income Tax Credit For tax year 2018, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families rises to $6,431, up from $6,318 in 2017. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children. Child Tax Credits For tax years 2018 through 2025, the child tax credit increases to $2,000 per child, up from $1,000 in 2017, thanks to the passage of the TCJA. The enhanced child tax credit, which was made permanent by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2017 (PATH), remains under TCJA. The refundable portion of the credit increases from $1,000 to $1,400 so that even if taxpayers do not owe any tax, they can still claim the credit. Under TCJA, a $500 nonrefundable credit is also available for dependents who do not qualify for the child tax credit (e.g., dependents age 17 and older). Child and Dependent Care Credit The Child and Dependent Care Credit also remains under tax reform. If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses in 2018. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.

Individuals - Education

American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credits The American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Scholarship Credit) was extended to the end of 2018 by ATRA but was made permanent by PATH in 2017. There was no change under TCJA. The maximum credit is $2,500 per student. The Lifetime Learning Credit remains at $2,000 per return; however, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $114,000, up from $112,000 for tax year 2017. Interest on Educational Loans In 2018 (as in 2017), the $2,500 maximum deduction for interest paid on student loans is no longer limited to interest paid during the first 60 months of repayment. The deduction is phased out for higher-income taxpayers with modified AGI of more than $65,000 ($135,000 joint filers).

Individuals - Retirement

Contribution Limits  The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan increases to $18,500. Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans remain at $12,500. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $275,000 (up from $270,000 in 2018). Income Phase-out Ranges The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have modified AGI between $63,000 and $73,000, up from $62,000 to $72,000. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range increases to $101,000 to $121,000, up from $99,000 to $119,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's modified AGI is between $189,000 and $199,000, up from $186,000 and $196,000. The modified AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $120,000 to $135,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $118,000 to $133,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $189,000 to $199,000, up from $186,000 to $196,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000. Saver's Credit In 2018, the AGI limit for the saver's credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low and moderate income workers is $63,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $62,000 in 2017; $47,250 for heads of household, up from $46,500; and $31,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $31,000 in 2017.

Businesses

Standard Mileage Rates In 2018, the rate for business miles driven is 54.5 cents per mile, up from 53.5 cents per mile in 2017. Section 179 Expensing  Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1 million of the first $2,500,000 of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. Indexed to inflation after 2018, the deduction was enhanced to include improvements to nonresidential qualified real property such as roofs, fire protection and alarm systems and security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. Bonus Depreciation Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. Section 199 Deduction for Domestic Production Activities Under the TCJA, the Section 199 deduction was repealed for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Extended through 2019, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit has been modified and enhanced for employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. There was no change to this tax credit under TCJA. Research & Development Tax Credit Starting in 2018, businesses with less than $50 million in gross receipts are able to use this credit to offset alternative minimum tax. Certain start-up businesses that might not have any income tax liability will be able to offset payroll taxes with the credit as well. There was no change to this tax credit under TCJA. Employee Health Insurance Expenses For taxable years beginning in 2018, the dollar amount of average wages is $26,600 ($26,200 in 2017). This amount is used for limiting the small employer health insurance credit and for determining who is an eligible small employer for purposes of the credit. Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses The deduction remains at 50% for taxpayers who incur food and beverage expenses associated with operating a trade or business. For tax years 2018 through 2025, however, the 50% deduction expands to include expenses incurred for meals furnished to employees for the convenience of the employer. Amounts after 2025 are not deductible. Under the TCJA, in 2018, office holiday parties remain 100% deductible. Employee meals while on business travel also remain deductible at 50%. For tax years 2018 through 2025; however, the 50% deduction expands to include expenses incurred for meals furnished to employees for the convenience of the employer. Amounts after 2025 are not deductible. Further, the deduction for business entertainment expenses is eliminated (only meals at 50%). Employer-provided Transportation Fringe Benefits If you provide transportation fringe benefits to your employees, in 2018 the maximum monthly limitation for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle as well as any transit pass is $260, and the monthly limitation for qualified parking is $260. Parity for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits was made permanent by PATH. While this checklist outlines important tax changes for 2018, additional changes in tax law are more than likely to arise during the year ahead. Don't hesitate to call if you want to get an early start on tax planning for 2018! Go to top

Small Business: Be Alert to Identity Theft

Small business identity theft is a big business for identity thieves. Just like individuals, businesses may have their identities stolen, and their sensitive information used to open credit card accounts or used to file fraudulent tax refunds for bogus refunds. As such, small business owners should be on guard against a growing wave of identity theft against employers.

Background

In the past year, the Internal Revenue Service has noted a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent Forms 1120, 1120S and 1041 as well as Schedule K-1. These fraudulent filings apply to partnerships as well as estate and trust forms. Security Summit partners (IRS, state tax agencies, and the private-sector tax community) have expanded efforts to protect business filers better and identify suspected identity theft returns. Identity thieves display a sophisticated knowledge of the tax code and industry filing practices and have long made use of stolen Employer Identification Numbers (EINs), which they use to create fake Forms W-2. These fake Forms W-2 are then used to file with fraudulent individual tax returns. Fraudsters also used EINs to open new lines of credit or obtain credit cards but until recently were only targeting individuals. Now, they are using company names and EINs to file fraudulent returns.

What to Watch out for

As with fraudulent individual returns, there are certain signs that may indicate business identity theft. Business, partnerships and estate and trust filers should be alert to potential identity theft and contact the IRS if they experience any of these issues:
  • Extension to file requests are rejected because a return with the Employer Identification Number or Social Security number is already on file;
  • An e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate EIN/SSN is already on file with the IRS;
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice that doesn't correspond to anything submitted by the filer.
  • Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the IRS because the thief has changed the address.

New Procedures to Protect Business in 2018

The IRS, state tax agency, and software providers also share certain data points from returns, including business returns, which help identify a suspicious filing. The IRS and states also are asking that business and tax practitioners provide additional information that will help verify the legitimacy of the tax return. For 2018, these "know your customer" procedures are being put in place and include the following questions:
  • The name and SSN of the company executive authorized to sign the corporate tax return. Is this person authorized to sign the return?
  • Payment history. Were estimated tax payments made? If yes, when were they made, how were they made, and how much was paid?
  • Parent company information. Is there a parent company? If yes, who?
  • Additional information based on deductions claimed
  • Filing history. Has the business filed Form(s) 940, 941 or other business-related tax forms?
Sole proprietorships. Sole proprietorships that file Schedule C and partnerships filing Schedule K-1 with Form 1040 also will be asked to provide additional information items, such as a driver’s license number. Providing this information will help the IRS and states identify suspicious business-related returns. Security. For small businesses looking for a place to start on security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) produced the publication: Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals. NIST is the branch of the U.S. Commerce Department that sets information security frameworks followed by federal agencies. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has a special section on its website dedicated to Resources for Small and Midsize Businesses. Many secretaries of state also provide resources on business-related identity theft as well. For more information about business-related identity theft visit the IRS website and search for Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance. If you believe your business identity has been used for fraudulent purposes don't hesitate to call the office for assistance. Go to top

Got Debt? How to Improve your Financial Situation

If you are having trouble paying your debts, it is important to take action sooner rather than later. Doing nothing leads to much larger problems in the future, whether it's a bad credit record or bankruptcy resulting in the loss of assets and even your home. If you're in financial trouble, then here are some steps to take to avoid financial ruin in the future. If you've accumulated a large amount of debt and are having difficulty paying your bills each month, now is the time to take action--before the bill collectors start calling. 1. Review each debt. Make sure that the debt creditors claim you owe is actually what you owe and that the amount is correct. If you dispute a debt, first contact the creditor directly to resolve your questions. If you still have questions about the debt, contact your state or local consumer protection office or, in cases of serious creditor abuse, your state Attorney General. 2. Contact your creditors. Let your creditors know you are having difficulty making your payments. Tell them why you are having trouble, perhaps it is because you recently lost your job or have unexpected medical bills. Try to work out an acceptable payment schedule with your creditors. Most are willing to work with you and will appreciate your honesty and forthrightness.
Tip: Most automobile financing agreements permit your creditor to repossess your car any time you are in default, with no advance notice. If your car is repossessed, you may have to pay the full balance due on the loan, as well as towing and storage costs, to get it back. Do not wait until you are in default. Try to solve the problem with your creditor when you realize you will not be able to meet your payments. It may be better to sell the car yourself and pay off your debt than to incur the added costs of repossession.
3. Budget your expenses. Create a spending plan that allows you to reduce your debts. Itemize your necessary expenses (such as housing and healthcare) and optional expenses (such as entertainment and vacation travel). Stick to the plan. 4. Try to reduce your expenses. Cut out any unnecessary spending such as eating out and purchasing expensive entertainment. Consider taking public transportation or using a car sharing service rather than owning a car. Clip coupons, purchase generic products at the supermarket and avoid impulse purchases. Above all, stop incurring new debt. Leave your credit cards at home. Pay for all purchases in cash or use a debit card instead of a credit card. 5. Pay down and consolidate your debts. Withdrawing savings from low-interest accounts to settle high-rate loans or credit card debt usually makes sense. In addition, there are a number of ways to pay off high-interest loans, such as credit cards, by getting a refinancing or consolidation loan, such as a second mortgage.
Tip: Selling off a second car not only provides cash but also reduces insurance and other maintenance expenses.
Caution: Be wary of any loan consolidations or other refinancing that actually increase interest owed, or require payments of points or large fees.
Caution: Second mortgages greatly increase the risk that you may lose your home.
You can regain financial health if you act responsibly. But don't wait until bankruptcy court is your only option. If you're having financial troubles, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Choosing a Business Entity

When you decide to start a business, one of the most important decisions you'll need to make is choosing a business entity. It's a decision that impacts many things--from the amount of taxes you pay to how much paperwork you have to deal with and what type of personal liability you face, and with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, it's more important than ever to choose the business entity that benefits your business.

Forms of Business

The most common forms of business are Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), and Corporations (C-Corporations). Federal tax law also recognizes another business form called the S-Corporation. While state law controls the formation of your business, federal tax law controls how your business is taxed.

What to Consider

Businesses fall under one of two federal tax systems:
1. Taxation of both the entity itself on the income it earns and the owners on dividends or other profit participation the owners receive from the business. C-Corporations fall under this system of federal taxation.2. "Pass through" taxation. This type of entity (also called a "flow-through" entity) is not taxed, but its owners are each taxed (more or less) on their proportionate shares of the entity's income. Pass-through entities include:
  • Sole Proprietorships
  • Partnerships, of various types
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs)
  • "S-Corporations" (S-Corps), as distinguished from C-corporations (C-Corps)
The first major consideration when choosing a business entity is whether to choose one that has two levels of tax on income or one that is a pass-through entity with only one level directly on the owners. The second consideration, which has more to do with business considerations rather than tax considerations, is the limitation of liability (protecting your assets from claims of business creditors). Let's take a general look at each of the options more closely:

Types of Business Entities

Sole Proprietorships

The most common (and easiest) form of business organization is the sole proprietorship. Defined as any unincorporated business owned entirely by one individual, a sole proprietor can operate any kind of business (full or part-time) as long as it is not a hobby or an investment. In general, the owner is also personally liable for all financial obligations and debts of the business.
Note: If you are the sole member of a domestic limited liability company (LLC), you are not a sole proprietor if you elect to treat the LLC as a corporation.
Types of businesses that operate as sole proprietorships include retail shops, farmers, large companies with employees, home-based businesses and one-person consulting firms. As a sole proprietor, your net business income or loss is combined with your other income and deductions and taxed at individual rates on your personal tax return. Because sole proprietors do not have taxes withheld from their business income, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments if you expect to make a profit. Also, as a sole proprietor, you must also pay self-employment tax on the net income reported.

Partnerships

A partnership is the relationship existing between two or more persons who join to carry on a trade or business. Each person contributes money, property, labor or skill, and expects to share in the profits and losses of the business. There are two types of partnerships: Ordinary partnerships, called "general partnerships," and limited partnerships that limit liability for some partners but not others. Both general and limited partnerships are treated as pass-through entities under federal tax law, but there are some relatively minor differences in tax treatment between general and limited partners. For example, general partners must pay self-employment tax on their net earnings from self-employment assigned to them from the partnership. Net earnings from self-employment include an individual's share, distributed or not, of income or loss from any trade or business carried on by a partnership. Limited partners are subject to self-employment tax only on guaranteed payments, such as professional fees for services rendered. Partners are not employees of the partnership and do not pay any income tax at the partnership level. Partnerships report income and expenses from its operation and pass the information to the individual partners (hence the pass-through designation). Because taxes are not withheld from any distributions partners generally need to make quarterly estimated tax payments if they expect to make a profit. Partners must report their share of partnership income even if a distribution is not made. Each partner reports his share of the partnership net profit or loss on his or her personal tax return.

Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute. Each state is different, so it's important to check the regulations in the state you plan to do business in. Owners of an LLC are called members, which may include individuals, corporations, other LLCs and foreign entities. Most states also permit "single member" LLCs, i.e., those having only one owner. Depending on elections made by the LLC and the number of members, the IRS treats an LLC as either a corporation, partnership, or as part of the LLC's owner's tax return. A domestic LLC with at least two members is classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes unless it elects to be treated as a corporation. An LLC with only one member is treated as an entity disregarded as separate from its owner for income tax purposes (but as a separate entity for purposes of employment tax and certain excise taxes), unless it elects to be treated as a corporation.

C-Corporations

In forming a corporation, prospective shareholders exchange money, property, or both, for the corporation's capital stock. A corporation conducts business, realizes net income or loss, pays taxes and distributes profits to shareholders. A corporate structure is more complex than other business structures. When you form a corporation, you create a separate tax-paying entity. The profit of a corporation is taxed to the corporation when earned and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends. This creates a double tax. The corporation does not get a tax deduction when it distributes dividends to shareholders. Earnings distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends are taxed at individual tax rates on their personal tax returns. Shareholders cannot deduct any loss of the corporation. If you organize your business as a corporation, generally are not personally liable for the debts of the corporation, although there may be exceptions under state law.

S-Corporations

An S-corporation has the same corporate structure as a standard corporation; however, its owners have elected to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes. Shareholders of S-corporations generally have limited liability. Generally, an S-Corporation is exempt from federal income tax other than tax on certain capital gains and passive income. It is treated in the same way as a partnership, in that generally; taxes are not paid at the corporate level. S-Corporations may be taxed under state tax law as regular corporations, or in some other way. Shareholders must pay tax on their share of corporate income, regardless of whether it is actually distributed. Flow-through of income and losses are reported on their personal tax returns, and they are assessed tax at their individual income tax rates, allowing S-Corporations to avoid double taxation on the corporate income. To qualify for S-Corporation status, the corporation must meet a number of requirements. Please call if you would like more information about which requirements must be met to form an S-Corporation.

Professional Guidance

When making a decision about which type of business entity to choose each business owner must decide which one best meets his or her needs. One form of business entity is not necessarily better than any other and obtaining the advice of a tax professional is critical. If you need assistance figuring out which business entity is best for your business, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

The Basics of Starting a Home-Based Business

More than half of all businesses today are home-based. Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements, and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs--home-based business people. And, with technological advances in smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well as rising demand for "service-oriented" businesses, the opportunities seem to be endless.

Is a Home-Based Business Right for You?

Choosing a home business is like choosing a spouse or partner: Think carefully before starting the business. Instead of plunging right in, take the time to learn as much about the market for any product or service as you can. Before you invest any time, effort, or money take a few moments to answer the following questions:
  • Can you describe in detail the business you plan on establishing?
  • What will be your product or service?
  • Is there a demand for your product or service?
  • Can you identify the target market for your product or service?
  • Do you have the talent and expertise needed to compete successfully?
Before you dive headfirst into a home-based business, it's essential that you know why you are doing it and how you will do it. To achieve success your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss and involves an honest assessment of your own personality, an understanding of what's involved, and a lot of hard work. You have to be willing to plan ahead and make improvements and adjustments along the way. While there are no "best" or "right" reasons for starting a home-based business, it is vital to have a very clear idea of what you are getting into and why. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are you a self-starter?
  • Can you stick to business if you're working at home?
  • Do you have the necessary self-discipline to maintain schedules?
  • Can you deal with the isolation of working from home?
Working under the same roof that your family lives under may not prove to be as easy as it seems. It is important that you work in a professional environment. If at all possible, you should set up a separate office in your home. You must consider whether your home has space for a business and whether you can successfully run the business from your home. If so, you may qualify for a tax break called the home office deduction. For more information see the article, Do You Qualify for the Home Office Deduction? below.

Compliance with Laws and Regulations

A home-based business is subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses, and you will be responsible for complying with them. There are some general areas to watch out for, but be sure to consult an attorney and your state department of labor to find out which laws and regulations will affect your business.

Zoning

Be aware of your city's zoning regulations. If your business operates in violation of them, you could be fined or closed down.

Restrictions on Certain Goods

Certain products may not be produced in the home. Most states outlaw home production of fireworks, drugs, poisons, sanitary or medical products, and toys. Some states also prohibit home-based businesses from making food, drink, or clothing.

Registration and Accounting Requirements

You may need the following:
  • Work certificate or a license from the state (your business's name may also need to be registered with the state)
  • Sales tax number
  • Separate business telephone
  • Separate business bank account
If your business has employees, you are responsible for withholding income, social security, and Medicare taxes, as well as complying with minimum wage and employee health and safety laws.

Planning Techniques

Money fuels all businesses. With a little planning, you'll find that you can avoid most financial difficulties. When drawing up a financial plan, don't worry about using estimates. The process of thinking through these questions helps develop your business skills and leads to solid financial planning.

Estimating Start-Up Costs

To estimate your start-up costs include all initial expenses such as fees, licenses, permits, telephone deposit, tools, office equipment and promotional expenses. In addition, business experts say you should not expect a profit for the first eight to ten months, so be sure to give yourself enough of a cushion if you need it.

Projecting Operating Expenses

Include salaries, utilities, office supplies, loan payments, taxes, legal services and insurance premiums, and don't forget to include your normal living expenses. Your business must not only meet its own needs but make sure it meets yours as well.

Projecting Income

It is essential that you know how to estimate your sales on a daily and monthly basis. From the sales estimates, you can develop projected income statements, break-even points, and cash-flow statements. Use your marketing research to estimate initial sales volume.

Determining Cash Flow

Working capital--not profits--pays your bills. Even though your assets may look great on the balance sheet, if your cash is tied up in receivables or equipment, your business is technically insolvent. In other words, you're broke. Make a list of all anticipated expenses and projected income for each week and month. If you see a cash-flow crisis developing, cut back on everything but the necessities. If a home-based business is in your future, then a tax professional can help. Don't hesitate to call if you need assistance setting up your business or making sure you have the proper documentation in place to satisfy the IRS. Go to top

Early Retirement Distributions and Your Taxes

Taxpayers may sometimes find themselves in situations when they need to withdraw money from their retirement plan early. What they may not realize is that taking money out early from your retirement plan may trigger an additional tax. Here are 10 things taxpayers should know about early withdrawals from retirement plans: 1. Payments you receive from your Individual Retirement Arrangement before you reach age 59 1/2 are generally considered early or premature distributions. 2. If you made a withdrawal from a plan last year, you must report the amount you withdrew to the IRS. You may have to pay income tax as well as an additional 10 percent tax on the amount you withdrew. 3. The additional 10 percent tax does not apply to nontaxable withdrawals. Nontaxable withdrawals include withdrawals of your cost to participate in the plan. Your cost includes contributions that you paid tax on before you put them into the plan. 4. A rollover is a type of nontaxable withdrawal. You usually have 60 days to complete a rollover to make it tax-free. Generally, a rollover is a distribution to you of cash or other assets from one retirement plan that you contribute to another retirement plan. The amount you roll over is generally taxed when the new plan makes a distribution to you or your beneficiary. 5. If you made nondeductible contributions to an IRA and later take early distributions from your IRA, the portion of the distribution attributable to those nondeductible contributions is not taxed. 6. If you received an early distribution from a Roth IRA, the distribution attributable to your prior contributions is not taxed. 7. If you received a distribution from any other qualified retirement plan, generally the entire distribution is taxable unless you made after-tax employee contributions to the plan. 8. There are several exceptions to the additional 10 percent early distribution tax, such as when the distributions are used for the purchase of a first home (up to $10,000), for certain medical or educational expenses, or if you are totally and permanently disabled. Furthermore, some of the exceptions for retirement plans are different from the rules for IRAs. Please call for details. 9. If you make an early withdrawal, you may need to file Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts, with your federal tax return. 10. The rules for retirement plans can be complex. If you need assistance, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Extended Due Dates for Health Coverage Forms

The due date for certain entities to provide 2017 health coverage information forms to individuals in 2018 has been extended. Insurers, self-insuring employers, other coverage providers, and applicable large employers now have until March 2, 2018, to provide Forms 1095-B or 1095-C to individuals, which is a 30-day extension from the original due date of January 31, 2018. Insurers, self-insuring employers, other coverage providers, and applicable large employers must furnish statements to employees or covered individuals regarding the health care coverage offered to them. Individuals may use this information to determine whether, for each month of the calendar year, they may claim the premium tax credit on their individual income tax returns. The 30-day extension is automatic, and employers and providers don't have to request it; however, the due dates for filing 2017 information returns with the IRS are not extended. For 2018, the due dates to file information returns with the IRS are:
  • February 28, 2018 for paper filers
  • April 2, 2018 for electronic filers
Due to these extensions, some individuals may not receive their Forms 1095-B or 1095-C by the time they are ready to file their 2017 individual income tax return. However, while information on these forms may assist in preparing a return, the forms are not required to file a 2017 tax return. Taxpayers do not have to wait for Forms 1095-B or 1095-C to file. Instead, they can prepare and file their returns using other information about their health coverage. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about extended due dates for employers and providers that issue Health Coverage Forms to individual taxpayers in 2018. Go to top

Standard Mileage Rates for 2018

Beginning on January 1, 2018, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck are:
  • 54.5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The business mileage rate and the medical and moving expense rates each increased 1 cent per mile from the rates for 2017. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged. The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas, and oil. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs, such as gas and oil. The charitable rate is set by law. These optional standard mileage rates are used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Taxpayers always have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using a vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. 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. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. Please call if you need additional information about these and other special rules. In addition, basis reduction amounts for those choosing the business standard mileage rate, as well as the maximum standard automobile cost that may be used in computing an allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan and the maximum standard automobile cost that may be used in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate (FAVR) Plan were also announced by the IRS. If you have any questions about standard mileage rates or which driving activities you should keep track of as tax year 2018 begins, do not hesitate to contact the office. Go to top

Safe Harbors Help Taxpayers Suffering Property Losses

Safe harbor methods are used by individual taxpayers when determining the amount of their casualty and theft losses for their homes and personal belongings. Four of the safe harbor methods may be used for any qualifying casualty or theft loss, and three are specifically applicable only to losses occurring as a result of a Federally declared disaster. For instance, one of the safe harbor methods allows a homeowner to determine the amount of loss, up to $20,000, by obtaining a contractor estimate of repair costs. Another safe harbor method allows a homeowner to determine the amount of loss resulting from a Federally declared disaster using the repair costs on a signed contract prepared by a licensed contractor. The guidance also provides a handy table for determining the value of personal belongings damaged, destroyed or stolen as a result of a Federally declared disaster. Under the safe harbor method individuals may use one or more cost indices to determine the amount of loss to their homes as a result of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria (2017 Hurricanes). The cost indices provide tables with cost per square foot for Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (2017 Disaster Area). These safe harbor methods are effective on Dec. 13, 2017, for losses that are attributable to the 2017 Hurricanes and that arose in the 2017 Disaster Area after August 22, 2017. IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts provides more information on casualty and theft losses. Taxpayers can explore claiming these losses by filing an original or amended return for Tax Year 2016 or using the new revision of the 2016 Form 4684. Questions about navigating casualty loss issues? Help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Late-Filing Penalty Relief for Partnerships

The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (Surface Transportation Act) changed the date by which a partnership, real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs), or other entity must file its annual return. For calendar year filers, the due date for filing the annual return or request for an extension changed from April 15 (April 18 in 2017) to March 15. Many entities filed their returns or their extension request for tax year 2016 by the April deadline, and if not for the Surface Transportation Act, these returns and requests for extension of time to file would have been on time. Fortunately, penalty relief is now available from the IRS for certain partnerships, real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs), and other entities that did not file the required returns by the new due date for tax years beginning in 2016 provided that the following conditions are met:
  • The partnership filed the returns (Forms 1065, 1065-B, 8804, 8805, 5471, or other returns) with the IRS and furnished copies (or Schedules K-1) to the partners (as appropriate) by the date that would have been timely before the amendment made by the Surface Transportation Act (April 18, 2017, for calendar year taxpayers); or
  • The partnership filed Form 7004 to request an extension of time to file by the date that would have been timely before the amendment made by the Surface Transportation Act and files the return with the IRS and furnishes copies (or Schedules K-1) to the partners by the 15th day of the ninth month after the close of the partnership's tax year (September 15, 2017, for calendar year partnerships). If the partnership files Form 1065-B and was required to furnish Schedules K-1 to the partners by March 15, 2017, it must have done so to qualify for the penalty relief.
Notice 2017-71, which amplifies, clarifies, and supersedes Notice 2017-47, provides that additional acts, such as the making of various elections, of partnerships, REMICs, and certain other entities made by the date that would have been timely prior to amendment by the Surface Transportation Act are treated as timely. An earlier release provided this relief only to taxpayers whose taxable years began and ended in 2016, but the revised guidance also applies to fiscal-year filers whose taxable years began in 2016 but did not end until 2017. Please contact the office if you need further clarification. Go to top

5 QuickBooks Reports You Need to Run in January

Getting all of your accounting tasks done in December is always a challenge. Besides the vacation time you and your employees probably took for the holidays, there are those year-end, "Let's-wrap-it-up-by-December-31" projects. How did you do last month? Were you ready to move forward when you got back to the office in January? Or did you run out of time and have to leave some accounting chores undone? Besides paying bills and chasing payments, submitting taxes and counting inventory in December, there's another item that should have been on your to-do list: creating end-of-year reports. If you didn't get this done, it's not too late. It's important to have this information as you begin the New Year and QuickBooks can provide it.

A Report Dashboard

You may be using the Reports menu to access the pre-built frameworks that QuickBooks offers. Have you ever explored the Report Center, though? You can get there by clicking Reports in the navigation toolbar or Reports | Report Center on the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Figure 1: QuickBooks' Report Center introduces you to all of the software's report templates and helps you access them quickly.  As you can see in the image above, the Report Center divides QuickBooks' reports into categories and displays samples of each. Click on one of the tabs at the top if you want to:
  • Memorize a report using any customization you applied.
  • Designate a report as a Favorite.
  • See a list of the most Recent reports you ran.
  • Explore reports beyond those included with QuickBooks, Contributed by Intuit or other parties.

Recommended Reports

Here are the reports we think you should run as soon as possible if you didn't have a chance to in December: Budget vs Actual We hope that by now you've at least started to create a budget for 2018. If not, the best way to begin is by looking at how close you came to your numbers in 2017. QuickBooks actually offers four budget-related reports, but Budget vs Actual is the most important; it tells you how your actual income and expenses compare to what was budgeted. Budget Overview Budget Overview is just what it sounds like: a comprehensive accounting of your budget for a given period. Profit & Loss Budget Performance is similar to Budget vs Actual. It compares actual to budget amounts for the month, fiscal year-to-date, and annual. Budget vs. Actual Graph provides a visual representation of your income and expenses, giving you a quick look at whether you were over or under budget during specific periods. Income & Expense Graph You've probably been watching your income and expenses all year in one way or another. But you need to look at the whole year in total to see where you stand. This graph shows you both how income compares to expenses and what the largest sources of each are. It doesn't have the wealth of customization options that other reports do, but you can view it by date, account, customer, and class. A/R Aging Detail Figure 2: QuickBooks' report templates offer generous customization options.  Which customers still owe you money from 2017? How much? How far past the due date are they? This is a report you should frequently be running throughout the year. Right now, though, you want to clean up all of the open invoices from 2017. A/R Aging Detail will show you who is current and who is 31-60, 61-90, and 91+ days old. You might consider sending Statements to those customers who are way past due. A/P Aging Detail Are you current on all of your bills? If so, this report will tell you so. If some bills slipped through the cracks in December, contact your vendors to let them know you're on it. Sales by Item Detail January is a good time to take a good look at what sold and what didn't in 2017 before you start placing orders for 2018. Make sure you watch this closely throughout the year because looking at monthly and annual totals will help you identify trends--as well as winners and losers. QuickBooks offers some reports in the Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxescategories that you can create, but which really require expert analysis. These include Balance Sheet, Trial Balance, and Statement of Cash Flows. You need the insight they can offer on at least a quarterly basis, if not monthly. If you need assistance setting up a schedule for looking at these, please contact the office. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for January 2018

During January

All employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2017 by January 31, 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, post it on a website accessible to the employee and notify the employee of the posting by January 31. All Businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2017. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient.

January 10

Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during December 2017, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070, Employee's Report of Tips to Employer.

January 16

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2017. Individuals - Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2017 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the final installment date for 2017 estimated tax. However, you do not have to make this payment if you file your 2017 return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due by January 31, 2018. Employers - Nonpayroll Withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2017. Farmers and Fisherman - Pay your estimated tax for 2017 using Form 1040-ES. You have until April 17 to file your 2017 income tax return (Form 1040). If you do not pay your estimated tax by January 16, you must file your 2017 return and pay any tax due by March 1, 2018, to avoid an estimated tax penalty.

January 31

Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2017. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you already deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return. Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return. Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2017. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more from 2017 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 12 to file the return. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2017. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2017 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return. Payers of Gambling Winnings - If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W-2G. Employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2017 by January 31, 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, post it on a website accessible to the employee and notify the employee by January 31, 2018. Businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2017. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient. This due date only applies to certain types of payments. Individuals - who must make estimated tax payments. If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 16, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2017 by January 31. Filing your return and paying any tax due by January 31, 2018, prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by January 31, file and pay your tax by April 17, 2018. Go to top Copyright © 2018   All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

December 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


2017 Recap of Tax Provisions for Individuals

Many of the tax changes affecting individuals and businesses for 2017 were related to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH) that modified or made permanent numerous tax breaks (the so-called "tax extenders"). To further complicate matters, some provisions were only extended through 2016 and are set to expire at the end of this year while others were extended through 2019. With that in mind, here's what individuals and families need to know about tax provisions for 2017. Personal Exemptions  The personal and dependent exemption for tax year 2017 is $4,050. Standard Deductions The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2017 is $12,700. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $6,350, and for heads of household the deduction is $9,350. The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2017 is $1,250 for married individuals and $1,550 for singles and heads of household. Income Tax Rates  In 2017 the top tax rate of 39.6 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $418,400 ($470,700 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2017--10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent--remain the same as in prior years. Due to inflation, tax-bracket thresholds increased for every filing status. For example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15 percent bracket from the 25 percent bracket is $75,900 for a married couple filing a joint return. Estate and Gift Taxes  In 2017 there is an exemption of $5.49 million per individual for estate, gift and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $14,000. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)  AMT exemption amounts were made permanent and indexed for inflation retroactive to 2012. In addition, non-refundable personal credits can now be used against the AMT. For 2017, exemption amounts are $54,300 for single and head of household filers, $84,500 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $42,250 for married people filing separately. Marriage Penalty Relief  The basic standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly in 2017 is $12,700. Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)  Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) limitations were made permanent by ATRA (indexed for inflation) and affect taxpayers with income at or above $261,500 for single filers and $313,800 for married filing jointly in tax year 2017. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)  Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are limited to $2,600 per year in 2017 (up from $2,550 in 2016) and apply only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term "taxable year" as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made. Specifically, in the case of a plan providing a grace period (which may be up to two months and 15 days), unused salary reduction contributions to the health FSA for plan years beginning in 2012 or later that are carried over into the grace period for that plan year will not count against the $2,600 limit for the subsequent plan year. Further, employers may allow people to carry over into the next calendar year up to $500 in their accounts, but aren't required to do so. Long Term Capital Gains  In 2017 taxpayers in the lower tax brackets (10 and 15 percent) pay zero percent on long-term capital gains. For taxpayers in the middle four tax brackets the rate is 15 percent and for taxpayers whose income is at or above $418,400 ($470,700 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.

Individuals - Tax Credits

Adoption Credit  In 2017 a nonrefundable (i.e. only those with a lax liability will benefit) credit of up to $13,570 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child. Child and Dependent Care Credit  The child and dependent care tax credit was permanently extended for taxable years starting in 2013. If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income. Child Tax Credit  For tax year 2017, the child tax credit is $1,000. A portion of the credit may be refundable, which means that you can claim the amount you are owed, even if you have no tax liability for the year. The credit is phased out for those with higher incomes. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) For tax year 2017, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families increased to $6,318 (up from $6,269 in 2016). The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $53,930 (up from $53,505 in 2016) for married filing jointly. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.

Individuals - Education Expenses

Coverdell Education Savings Account  You can contribute up to $2,000 a year to Coverdell savings accounts in 2017. These accounts can be used to offset the cost of elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education. American Opportunity Tax Credit For 2017, the maximum American Opportunity Tax Credit that can be used to offset certain higher education expenses is $2,500 per student, although it is phased out beginning at $160,000 adjusted gross income for joint filers and $80,000 for other filers. Employer-Provided Educational Assistance  In 2017, as an employee, you can exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying post-secondary and graduate education expenses that are reimbursed by your employer. Lifetime Learning Credit  A credit of up to $2,000 is available for an unlimited number of years for certain costs of post-secondary or graduate courses or courses to acquire or improve your job skills. For 2017, the modified adjusted gross income threshold at which the lifetime learning credit begins to phase out is $112,000 for joint filers and $56,000 for singles and heads of household. Student Loan Interest  In 2017 you can deduct up to $2,500 in student-loan interest as long as your modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 (single) or $135,000 (married filing jointly). The deduction is phased out at higher income levels. In addition, the deduction is claimed as an adjustment to income, so you do not need to itemize your deductions.

Individuals - Retirement

Contribution Limits For 2017, the elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is $18,000 (same as 2016). For persons age 50 or older in 2017, the limit is $24,000 ($6,000 catch-up contribution). Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans remain at $12,500 (same as 2016) for persons under age 50 and $15,500 for anyone age 50 or older in 2017. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increased from $265,000 to $270,000. Saver's Credit  In 2017, the adjusted gross income limit for the saver's credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low-and-moderate-income workers is $62,000 for married couples filing jointly, $46,500 for heads of household, and $31,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles. Please call if you need help understanding which deductions and tax credits you are entitled to. Go to top

Business Tax Provisions: the Year in Review

Whether you file as a corporation or sole proprietor here's what business owners need to know about tax changes for 2017. Standard Mileage Rates  The standard mileage rates in 2017 are as follows: 53.5 cents per business mile driven, 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses  Small business employers who pay at least half the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit as long as they employ fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers and average annual wages do not exceed $52,000 (adjusted annually for inflation). In 2017 this amount is $52,400. In 2017 (as in 2016, 2015, and 2014), the tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees' premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers). For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit was 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as charities. Section 179 Expensing and Depreciation The Section 179 expense deduction was made permanent at $510,000 by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH). For equipment purchases, the maximum deduction is $500,000 of the first $2.03 million of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. The deduction is phased out dollar for dollar on amounts exceeding the $2 million threshold amount (indexed for inflation) and eliminated above amounts exceeding $2.5 million. In addition, Section 179 is now indexed to inflation in increments of $10,000 for future tax years. The 50 percent bonus depreciation has been extended through 2019. Businesses are able to depreciate 50 percent of the cost of equipment acquired and placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, the bonus depreciation is reduced to 40 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019. The standard business depreciation amount is 25 cents per mile. Please call if you have any questions about Section 179 expensing and the bonus depreciation. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Extended through 2019, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit has been modified and enhanced for employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. Please call if you have any questions about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. SIMPLE IRA Plan Contributions Contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans increased to $12,500 for persons under age 50 and $15,500 for persons age 50 or older in 2017. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $270,000. Please contact the office if you need help understanding which deductions and tax credits you are entitled to. Go to top

Five Common Budgeting Errors & How to Avoid Them

When it comes to creating a budget, it's essential to estimate your spending as realistically as possible. Here are five budget-related errors commonly made by small businesses and some tips for avoiding them.
  1. Not Setting Goals. It's almost impossible to set spending priorities without clear goals for the coming year. It's important to identify, in detail, your business and financial goals and what you want or need to achieve in your business.
  2. Underestimating Costs. Every business has ancillary or incidental costs that don't always make it into the budget--for whatever reason. A good example of this is buying a new piece of equipment or software. While you probably accounted for the cost of the equipment in your budget, you might not have remembered to budget time and money needed to train staff or for equipment maintenance.
  3. Forgetting about Tax Obligations. While your financial statements may seem adequate, don't forget to set aside enough money for tax (e.g., sales and use tax, payroll tax) owed to state, local, and federal entities. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is "money in the bank" and use it to pay for expenses you can't really afford or worse, including it in next year's budget and later finding out that you don’t have the cash to pay for your tax obligations.
  4. Assuming Revenue Equals Positive Cash Flow. Revenue on the books doesn't always equate to cash in hand. Just because you've closed the deal, it may be a long time before you are paid for your services and the money is in your bank account. Easier said than done, perhaps, but don't spend money that you don't have.
  5. Failing to Adjust Your Budget. Don't be afraid to update your forecasted expenditures whenever new circumstances affect your business. Several times a year you should set aside time to compare budget estimates against the amount you actually spent, and then adjust your budget accordingly.
Please call if you need assistance setting up a budget to meet your business financial goals. Go to top

Tax Advantages of Health Savings Accounts

While similar to FSAs (Flexible Savings Plans) in that both allow pre-tax contributions, Health Savings Accounts or HSAs offer taxpayers several additional tax benefits such as contributions that roll over from year to year (i.e., no "use it or lose it"), tax-free interest on earnings, and when used for qualified medical expenses, tax-free distributions.

What is a Health Savings Account?

A Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that allows you to set aside money pre-tax to pay for qualified medical expenses. Contributions that you make to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses (including after you've retired) of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent.
Caution: Medical expenses that are reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return are not eligible.
Caution: Insurance premiums for taxpayers younger than age 65 are generally not considered qualified medical expenses unless the premiums are for health care continuation coverage (such as coverage under COBRA), health care coverage while receiving unemployment compensation under federal or state law.
You cannot be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care and you cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. Spouses cannot open joint HSAs. Each spouse who is an eligible individual who wants an HSA must open a separate HSA. An HSA can be opened through your bank or another financial institution. Contributions to an HSA must be made in cash. Contributions of stock or property are not allowed. As an employee may be able to elect to have money set aside and deposited directly into an HSA account; however, if this option is not offered by your employer, then you must wait until filing a tax return to claim the HSA contributions as a deduction. High Deductible Health Plans. A Health Savings Account can only be used if you have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). Typically, high-deductible health plans have lower monthly premiums than plans with lower deductibles, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high-deductible plan can be combined with a health savings account, allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with tax-free money that you have set aside. By using the pre-tax funds in your HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses before you reach your deductible and other out-of-pocket costs such as copayments, you reduce your overall health care costs. Calendar year 2018. For calendar year 2018, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage. Annual out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) of the beneficiary are limited to $6,650 for self-only coverage and $13,300 for family coverage. This limit doesn't apply to deductibles and expenses for out-of-network services if the plan uses a network of providers. Instead, only deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for services within the network should be used to figure whether the limit applies. Last month rule. Under the last-month rule, you are considered to be an eligible individual for the entire year if you are an eligible individual on the first day of the last month of your tax year (December 1 for most taxpayers). You can make contributions to your HSA for 2017 until April 17, 2018. Your employer can make contributions to your HSA between January 1, 2018, and April 17, 2018, that are allocated to 2017. The contribution will be reported on your 2018 Form W-2.

Summary of HSA Tax Advantages

  • Tax deductible. You can claim a tax deduction for contributions you, or someone other than your employer, make to your HSA even if you don't itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040).
  • Pre-tax dollars. Contributions to your HSA made by your employer (including contributions made through a cafeteria plan) may be excluded from your gross income.
  • Tax-free interest on earnings. Contributions remain in your account until you use them and are rolled over year after year. Any interest or other earnings on the assets in the account are tax-free. Furthermore, an HSA is "portable" and stays with you if you change employers or leave the workforce.
  • Tax-free distributions. Distributions may be tax-free if you pay qualified medical expenses.
  • Additional contributions for older workers. Employees, aged 55 years and older are able to save an additional $1,000 per year.
  • Tax-free after retirement. Distributions are tax-free at age 65 when used for qualified medical expenses including amounts used to pay Medicare Part B and Part D premiums, and long-term care insurance policy premiums. However, you cannot use money in an HSA to pay for supplemental insurance (e.g., Medigap) premiums.
Questions about HSAs? Don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Reform Update: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill (H.R. 1) is the first significant tax reform effort undertaken by Congress in more than 30 years. The bill was passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Trump.

Individuals

Tax Brackets. The number of tax brackets remains at seven; however, the tax rates and income covered have changed. For individuals, the following tax rates apply:
  • 10% up to $9,525
  • 12% up to $38,700
  • 22% up to $82,500
  • 24% up to $157,500
  • 32% up to $200,000
  • 35% up to $500,000
  • 37% over $500,000
For married couples filing jointly, the following rates apply:
  • 10% up to $19,050
  • 12% up to $77,400
  • 22% up to $165,000
  • 24% up to $315,000
  • 32% up to $400,000
  • 35% up to $600,000
  • 37% over $600,000
Standard Deduction. The standard deduction increases to from $6,350 (2017) to $12,000 for individuals, from $9,300 (2017) to $18,000 for heads of household and from $12,700 (2017) to $24,000 for married couples. Personal Exemption. The deduction for personal exemptions is repealed through 2025. Child Tax Credit. The Child Tax Credit increases to $2,000 from the current $1,000. An additional $500 credit is provided for each non-child dependent. Also, Social Security numbers for children are required before claiming the enhanced credit. Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT remains but exemption amount increase to $70,300 for individuals and $109,400 for married filing jointly, affecting fewer taxpayers. Capital Gains and Dividends. The maximum tax rate remains at 23.8% (20% plus the 3.8% Medicare tax for taxpayers with income above $200,000 or $250,000 married filing jointly). The 20% capital gains income threshold increases to $425,800 for other individuals ($479,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). Estate Tax. The exemption (currently $5.5 million) immediately doubles to $11.2 million in 2018 and remains at this level for the next six years, after which time the estate tax is is eliminated completely (tax year 2026 and beyond). Education-Related Tax Credits and Deductions. 529 Savings Plans are expanded to allow some funds (up to $10,000 for certain expenses) to be used for K-12 education. Rollovers to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Sec. 529A accounts will be allowed as well. The student loan interest deduction remains. Mortgage Interest Deduction. Remains but with a few changes such as allowing interest deduction for up to $750,000 (currently $1 million) in mortgage principal on new homes. Existing mortgages are grandfathered in. Homes entered into contract before December 15, 2017, and closed on by April 1, 2018, are able to use the prior limit of $1 million. Home-equity loans. The home-equity loan interest deduction is repealed through 2025. State and Local Income Tax Deduction. Preserved. Deduction allowed for up to $10,000 a year in state and local income or property taxes.
Note:Taxpayers who prepay 2018 state income taxes, a common tax planning strategy, cannot take the prepaid 2018 amount as a deduction on their 2017 tax returns.
Charitable Contributions. Deductions for charitable donations remain; however, for charitable contributions of cash to public charities the percentage of income limit increases to 60%. Medical Expense Deductions. The Medical expense deduction (currently 10% of AGI) is temporarily lowered to 7.5% of income for tax years 2017 and 2018. Miscellaneous Deductions. Many are repealed through 2025 including those relating to tax preparation, alimony payments (after December 31, 2018), and moving expenses with the exception of the moving expense reimbursement for members of the Armed Forces on active duty who move because of a military order. Adoption Tax Credit. Remains. Electric Vehicles. The $7,500 tax credit (Sec. 30D) for the purchase of electric vehicles remains. Individual Healthcare Mandate. Penalty is eliminated for tax years starting in 2018.

Businesses

Corporate Tax Rate. Starting January 1, 2018, the corporate tax rate is reduced to a flat rate of 21% (down from 35%). THe corporate AMT is repealed. Territorial Taxation. Companies with offshore earnings, currently taxed at a 35% rate, would transition to a territorial tax system. Under the tax reform bill income derived from offshore earnings, if repatriated, would be subject to an effective tax rate of 15.5% for earnings held in liquid assets (i.e. cash) and 8% for illiquid (other) assets. Business Interest. Small businesses (under $25 million) retain the ability to write off interest on loans subject to limitations. Business Expensing. Businesses would be allowed to immediately write off the full cost of new equipment at 100% through tax year 2022, after which it would be phased down over a four-year period. Business Entertainment Expenses Deduction. The deduction for business entertainment expenses is eliminated. Pass-through Entities. The tax rate on pass-through business entities is reduced to a maximum of 20% for tax years starting January 1, 2018, and ending on December 31, 2025. Low-income Housing Tax Credit. Remains. Research & Development Tax Credit. Remains. Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Remains. Endowment Assets. A 1.4% excise tax is imposed on investment income derived from endowment funds at private colleges and universities. An exclusion is provided for an institution with less than 500 full-time equivalent students whose endowment (fair market value) is less than $500,000 per student. Go to top

Retirement Contributions Limits Announced for 2018

Cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for the tax year 2018 have been announced by the IRS. Here are the highlights: In general, income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the saver's credit all increased for 2018. In addition, the contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $18,000 to $18,500. However, contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts for self-employed persons remains unchanged at $12,500.

Traditional IRAs

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions; however, if during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-out amounts of the deduction do not apply. Here are the phase-out ranges for 2018:
  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $63,000 to $73,000, up from $62,000 to $72,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $101,000 to $121,000, up from $99,000 to $119,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $189,000 and $199,000, up from $186,000 and $196,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Roth IRAs

The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $120,000 to $135,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $118,000 to $133,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $189,000 to $199,000, up from $186,000 to $196,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Saver's Credit

The income limit for the Saver's Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $63,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $62,000; $47,250 for heads of household, up from $46,500; and $31,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $31,000.

Limitations that remain unchanged from 2017

  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.
  • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
Go to top

Don't Forget about College Tax Credits for 2017

With another school year in full swing, now is a good time for parents and students to see if they qualify for either of two college tax credits or other education-related tax benefits when they file their 2017 federal income tax returns next year. American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit. In general, the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit is available to taxpayers who pay qualifying expenses for an eligible student. Eligible students include the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents. The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides a credit for each eligible student, while the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a maximum credit per tax return. Though a taxpayer often qualifies for both of these credits, he or she can only claim one of them for a particular student in a particular year. To claim these credits on their tax return, the taxpayer must file Form 1040 or 1040A and complete Form 8863, Education Credits. The credits apply to eligible students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school, including both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. The credits are subject to income limits that could reduce the amount taxpayers can claim on their tax return. Normally, a student will receive a Form 1098-T from their institution by January 31, 2018. This form shows information about tuition paid or billed along with other information. However, amounts shown on this form may differ from amounts taxpayers are eligible to claim for these tax credits. Many of those eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. Students can claim this credit for qualified education expenses paid during the entire tax year for a certain number of years:
  • The credit is only available for four tax years per eligible student.
  • The credit is available only if the student has not completed the first four years of post-secondary education before 2017.
Here are some more key features of the credit:
  • Qualified education expenses are amounts paid for tuition, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student. Other expenses, such as room and board, are not qualified expenses.
  • The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.
  • Forty percent of the American Opportunity Tax Credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get a payment of up to $1,000 for each eligible student.
  • The full credit can only be claimed by taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $160,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more, and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.
Lifetime Learning Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 per tax return is available for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the limit on the Lifetime Learning Credit applies to each tax return, rather than to each student. Also, the Lifetime Learning Credit does not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax. Though the half-time student requirement does not apply to the lifetime learning credit, the course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. Other features of the credit include:
  • Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance qualify as do other fees required for the course. Additional expenses do not.
  • The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on eligible expenses across all students on the return. That means the full $2,000 credit is only available to a taxpayer who pays $10,000 or more in qualifying tuition and fees and has sufficient tax liability.
  • Income limits are lower than under the American Opportunity Tax Credit. To claim the full credit for 2017 your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must be $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for married filing jointly). You receive a reduced amount of the credit if your MAGI is over $80,000 but less than $90,000 (over $160,000 but less than $180,000 for married filing jointly). You cannot claim the credit if your MAGI is over $90,000 ($180,000 for joint filers). For most taxpayers, MAGI is adjusted gross income (AGI) as figured on their federal income tax return.
Eligible parents and students can get the benefit of these credits during the year by having less tax taken out of their paychecks. They can do this by filling out a new Form W-4 with their employer to claim additional withholding allowances. There are a variety of other education-related tax benefits that can help many taxpayers. They include:
  • Scholarship and fellowship grants--generally tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books, and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.
  • Tuition and fees deduction claimed on Form 8917--for some, a worthwhile alternative to the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit.
  • Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.
  • Savings bonds used to pay for college--though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years old.
  • Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, used by many families to prepay or save for a child's college education.
Taxpayers with qualifying children who are students up to age 24 may be able to claim a dependent exemption and the Earned Income Tax Credit. If you have any questions about college tax credits, please contact the office. Go to top

Take Retirement Plan Distributions by December 31

Taxpayers born before July 1, 1947, generally must receive payments from their individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by December 31. Known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), typically these distributions must be made by the end of the tax year, in this case, 2017. The required distribution rules apply to owners of traditional, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs while the original owner is alive. They also apply to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount on Form 5498 in Box 12b. For a 2017 RMD, this amount is on the 2016 Form 5498 normally issued to the owner during January 2017. A special rule allows first-year recipients of these payments, those who reached age 70 1/2 during 2017, to wait until as late as April 1, 2018, to receive their first RMDs. What this means that those born after June 30, 1946, and before July 1, 1947, are eligible. The advantage of this special rule is that although payments made to these taxpayers in early 2018 can be counted toward their 2017 RMD, they are taxable in 2018. The special April 1 deadline only applies to the RMD for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by December 31. So, for example, a taxpayer who turned 70 1/2 in 2016 (born after June 30, 1945, and before July 1, 1946) and received the first RMD (for 2016) on April 1, 2017, must still receive a second RMD (for 2017) by December 31, 2017. The RMD for 2017 is based on the taxpayer's life expectancy on December 31, 2017, and their account balance on December 31, 2016. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. For most taxpayers, the RMD is based on Table III (Uniform Lifetime Table) in IRS Publication 590-B. For a taxpayer who turned 72 in 2017, the required distribution would be based on a life expectancy of 25.6 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer whose spouse is more than ten years younger and is the taxpayer's only beneficiary. If you need assistance with this, don't hesitate to call. Though the RMD rules are mandatory for all owners of traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs and participants in workplace retirement plans, some people in workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMDs. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions; however, there may be a tax on excess accumulations. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals. For more information on RMDs, please call. Go to top

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

Flexible Spending Accounts or FSAs provide employees a way to use tax-free dollars to pay medical expenses not covered by other health plans. Because eligible employees need to decide how much to contribute through payroll deductions before the plan year begins, now is when many employers are offering employees the option to participate during the 2018 plan year. Interested employees who wish to contribute to an FSA during the new year must make this choice again for 2018, even if they contributed in 2017. Self-employed individuals are not eligible. An employee who chooses to participate can contribute up to $2,650 during the 2018 plan year (up from $2,600 in 2017). Amounts contributed are not subject to federal income tax, Social Security tax or Medicare tax. If the plan allows, the employer may also contribute to an employee's FSA. Throughout the year, employees can then use funds to pay qualified medical expenses not covered by their health plan, including co-pays, deductibles and a variety of medical products and services ranging from dental and vision care to eyeglasses and hearing aids. Interested employees should check with their employer for details about eligible expenses and claim procedures. Under the use or lose provision, participating employees must often incur eligible expenses by the end of the plan year, or forfeit any unspent amounts. But under a special rule, employers may, if they choose, offer participating employees more time through either the carryover option or the grace period option. Under the carryover option, an employee can carry over up to $500 of unused funds to the following plan year--for example, an employee with $500 of unspent funds at the end of 2018 would still have those funds available to use in 2019. Under the grace period option, an employee has until 2 1/2 months after the end of the plan year to incur eligible expenses--for example, March 15, 2019, for a plan year ending on December 31, 2018. Employers can offer either option, but not both, or none at all. Employers are not required to offer FSAs. Accordingly, interested employees should check with their employer to see if they offer an FSA. Please call if you have any questions about how FSA contributions affect your taxes. Go to top

Tips for Taxpayers: Travel Expenses for Charitable Work

Do you plan to donate your time to charity this holiday season? If travel is part of your charitable giving, for example, driving your personal auto to collect donations from local business, you may be able to these travel expenses on your tax return and lower your tax bill. Here are five tax tips you should know if you travel while giving your services to charity. 1. Qualified Charities. To be able to deduct your costs, your volunteer work must be for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified and do not need to apply to the IRS. Ask the group about its status before you donate. You can also use the "Exempt Organizations Select Check" search tool on IRS.gov to check a group's status or call the office. 2. Out-of-Pocket Expenses. You can't deduct the value of your services that you give to charity. But you may be able to deduct some out-of-pocket costs you pay to give your services. This can include the cost of travel, but they must be necessary while you are away from home. All out-of-pocket costs must be:
  • Unreimbursed,
  • Directly connected with the services,
  • Expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and
  • Not personal, living or family expenses.
3. Genuine and Substantial Duty. Your charity work has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. You can't deduct expenses if you only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip. 4. Value of Time or Service. You can't deduct the value of your time or services that you give to charity. This includes income lost while you serve as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity. 5. Travel You Can Deduct. The types of expenses that you may be able to deduct include Air, rail and bus transportation, car expenses, lodging costs, cost of meals, and taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel. 6. Travel You Can't Deduct. Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, you can't deduct your costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or vacation. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about travel expenses related to charitable work. Go to top

Working with QuickBooks' Vendor Records

QuickBooks never forgets. That is one of the reasons you use it. You create a record or transaction, enter a note about a customer, or write a check, for example, and the information gets stored in your QuickBooks file. If you do not remember exactly where it is, you can search for it. No more flipping through a card file or folder, or digging in drawers. QuickBooks makes it possible--easy, even--to maintain thorough records of your vendors, the individuals, and companies who provide you with office supplies, product parts, computer equipment --everything you need to keep your business operating. Once you have started building a vendor record, you will be able to use it in transactions and reports and be able to refer to it when you need some information. If you are just starting to use QuickBooks, part of your setup will involve entering vendor details in the record template the software supplies. If you have been a QuickBooks user for a while, but you have only supplied enough information about vendors to create transactions, consider fleshing out those elements of your accounting file as you have time.

Filling in Fields

To create a vendor record, open the Vendors menu and select Vendor Center. Above the tabbed table, there is a small toolbar. Open the New Vendor menu and click on New Vendor. A window like this will open: Figure 1: You can store an enormous amount of detailed information about your vendors in these record templates. At the top of the screen (not pictured here) is a box labeled Vendor Name. Enter it, then move on to the Opening Balance field and supply the amount and date. If you don't understand the concept of opening balances, please call the office and one of our QuickBooks professionals will go over this with you. Fill in as many of these fields as you can, and then click on the Payment Settings tab in the toolbar on the left. The fields in this window--Payment Terms, Credit Limit, etc.--are optional, but complete what you are able to. The more you can fill out now, the less work you will have to do later, since much of the information here automatically comes up when you create transactions. The other tabs here open windows where you can specify:
  • Tax Settings. Vendor Tax ID and 1099 eligibility.
  • Account Settings. Here, you can select the default account that should be automatically selected when you enter a bill or expense for this vendor (for example, phone bills=Utilities: Telephone)Give the office a call if you aren't clear about this particular step. It's OK to leave it blank for now.
  • Additional Info. Vendor Type (subcontractors, for example) and Custom Fields (fields you can define for your own use).
When you are done, click OK.

Viewing Your Records

Once you have created one or more vendor records, the Vendor Center will display a list of them in its left pane. Click on one to highlight it, and you will see something like this in the right pane: Figure 2: The Vendor Information window displays contact information in the top pane (not pictured here), and additional details below. Here is where your conscientious work creating records starts to pay off. Click on any of the five tabs in the top toolbar to display that vendor's Transactions, the Contacts from that company, any related To Do's, Notes you have taken, and Sent Email. Once your lists grow unwieldy, you can search by a variety of filters.

Using Records in Transactions

There are numerous transaction types that require vendor information, like purchase orders, bills, checks, and sales tax payments. When you open one of these transaction forms and click the down arrow in the Vendor field, your list will drop down. Select one, and related details that you've already entered will automatically appear in the correct fields. You can create vendor transactions from either the home page or the menus. You can also do so from the Vendor Center. With either the Vendors or Transactions tab active, you would click on the New Transactions link in the upper toolbar and select the one you want to launch. Figure 3: QuickBooks provides numerous paths to creating vendor-related transactions. The mechanics of filling in the fields in vendor records and using that information in transactions are not overly complicated. But as noted here, you may run across unfamiliar concepts. If you need help with any aspect of QuickBooks' vendor records, please call. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for December 2017

December 11

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during November, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

December 15

Corporations - Deposit the fourth installment of estimated income tax for 2017. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year. Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November. Employers Nonpayroll withholding - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

November 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Individuals

Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents a number of challenges, first and foremost being what tax reform measures (if any) will actually become legislation--and when they take effect (e.g. retroactive to January 1, 2017, or a future date). Furthermore, a number of tax extenders expired at the end of 2016, which may or may not be reauthorized by Congress and made retroactive to the beginning of the year. And then, of course, there are the normal variations in individual tax circumstances such as the sale of a home that could bump up income into another tax bracket. With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the tax strategies you can use given the current uncertainties.

General Tax Planning

General tax planning strategies for individuals this year include postponing income and accelerating deductions, as well as careful consideration of timing related investments, charitable gifts, and retirement planning. For example, taxpayers might consider using one or more of the following:
  • Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
  • If you anticipate an increase in taxable income this year (2017) and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind, however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file your 2018 tax return in 2019. Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about this.
  • Prepaying deductible expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses this year using a credit card. This strategy works because deductions may be taken based on when the expense was charged on the credit card, not when the bill was paid. For example, if you charge a medical expense in December but pay the bill in January, assuming it's an eligible medical expense, it can be taken as a deduction on your 2017 tax return.
  • If your company grants stock options, you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2018. Exercising this option is often but not always a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
  • If you're self-employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year to be paid in full by the end of December.
Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.

Accelerating Income and Deductions

Accelerating income into 2017 is an especially good idea for taxpayers who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year or whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare Tax or Net Investment Income Tax (see below). In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2017, depending on your situation. The latter benefits include Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child tax credits, higher education tax credits and deductions for student loan interest.
Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent of net investment income) should pay close attention to "one-time" income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.
Tip: If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, increasing your withholding before year-end can avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due.
Tip: On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.
Here are several examples of what a taxpayer might do to accelerate deductions:
  • Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
  • Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2018, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
  • It may be beneficial to pay 2018 tuition in 2017 to take full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an above-the-line deduction worth up to $2,500 per student to cover the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable, which means you can get it even if you owe no tax.
  • Try to bunch "threshold" expenses, such as medical expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions. For example, you might pay medical bills and dues and subscriptions in whichever year they would do you the most tax good. Threshold expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, to deduct medical and dental expenses these amounts must exceed 10 percent of AGI. By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.
    Note: The temporary exemption of 7.5 percent for individuals age 65 and older and their spouses expired on December 31, 2016 and is no longer available.

Health Care Law

If you haven't signed up for health insurance this year, do so now and avoid or reduce any penalty you might be subject to. Depending on your income, you may be able to claim the premium tax credit that reduces your premium payment or reduces your tax obligations, as long as you meet certain requirements. You can choose to get the credit immediately or receive it as a refund when you file your taxes next spring. Please contact the office if you need assistance with this.

Additional Medicare Tax

Taxpayers whose income exceeds certain threshold amounts ($200,000 single filers and $250,000 married filing jointly) are liable for an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on their tax returns, but may request that their employers withhold additional income tax from their pay to be applied against their tax liability when filing their 2017 tax return next April. High net worth individuals should consider contributing to Roth IRAs and 401(k) because distributions are not subject to the Medicare Tax. If you're a taxpayer close to the threshold for the Medicare Tax, it might make sense to switch Roth retirement contributions to a traditional IRA plan, thereby avoiding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) as well (more about the NIIT below).

Alternate Minimum Tax

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption "patch," which was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012, is indexed for inflation and it's important not to overlook the effect of any year-end planning moves on the AMT for 2017 and 2018. Items that may affect AMT include deductions for state property taxes and state income taxes, miscellaneous itemized deductions, and personal exemptions. Please call if you're not sure whether AMT applies to you.
Note: AMT exemption amounts for 2017 are as follows:
  • $54,300 for single and head of household filers,
  • $84,500 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers,
  • $42,250 for married people filing separately.

Charitable Contributions

Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however. Keep in mind that a written record of your charitable contributions--including travel expenses such as mileage--is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a cancelled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. For more information about this topic, see Charitable Contributions of Propertybelow.
Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.

Investment Gains and Losses

This year, and in the coming years, investment decisions are likely to be more about managing capital gains than about minimizing taxes per se. For example, taxpayers below threshold amounts in 2017 might want to take gains; whereas taxpayers above threshold amounts might want to take losses.
Caution: In recent years, extreme fluctuations in the stock market have been commonplace. Don't assume that a down market means investment losses. Your cost basis may be low if you've held the stock for a long time.
If your tax bracket is either 10 or 15 percent (married couples making less than $75,900 or single filers making less than $37,950), then you might want to take advantage of the zero percent tax rate on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains. If you fall into the highest tax bracket (39.6 percent), the maximum tax rate on long-term capital gains is capped at 20 percent for tax years starting in 2013. Minimize taxes on investments by judicious matching of gains and losses. Where appropriate, try to avoid short-term capital gains, which are usually taxed at a much higher tax rate than long-term gains--up to 39.6 percent in 2017 for high-income earners ($418,400 single filers, $470,700 married filing jointly). Where feasible, reduce all capital gains and generate short-term capital losses up to $3,000. As a general rule, if you have a large capital gain this year, consider selling an investment on which you have an accumulated loss. Capital losses up to the amount of your capital gains plus $3,000 per year ($1,500 if married filing separately) can be claimed as a deduction against income. Wash Sale Rule. After selling a securities investment to generate a capital loss, you can repurchase it after 30 days. This is known as the "Wash Rule Sale." If you buy it back within 30 days, the loss will be disallowed. Or you can immediately repurchase a similar (but not the same) investment, e.g., and ETF or another mutual fund with the same objectives as the one you sold.
Tip: If you have losses, you might consider selling securities at a gain and then immediately repurchasing them, since the 30-day rule does not apply to gains. That way, your gain will be tax-free; your original investment is restored, and you have a higher cost basis for your new investment (i.e., any future gain will be lower).

Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)

The Net Investment Income Tax, which went into effect in 2013, is a 3.8 percent tax that is applied to investment income such as long-term capital gains for earners above certain threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). Short-term capital gains are subject to ordinary income tax rates as well as the 3.8 percent NIIT. This information is something to think about as you plan your long-term investments. Business income is not considered subject to the NIIT provided the individual business owner materially participates in the business. Please call if you need assistance with any of your long term tax planning goals.

Mutual Fund Investments

Before investing in a mutual fund, ask whether a dividend is paid at the end of the year or whether a dividend will be paid early in the next year but be deemed paid this year. The year-end dividend could make a substantial difference in the tax you pay.
Example: You invest $20,000 in a mutual fund in 2017. You opt for automatic reinvestment of dividends, and in late December of 2017, the fund pays a $1,000 dividend on the shares you bought. The $1,000 is automatically reinvested. Result: You must pay tax on the $1,000 dividend. You will have to take funds from another source to pay that tax because of the automatic reinvestment feature. The mutual fund's long-term capital gains pass through to you as capital gains dividends taxed at long-term rates, however long or short your holding period. The mutual fund's distributions to you of dividends it receives generally qualify for the same tax relief as long-term capital gains. If the mutual fund passes through its short-term capital gains, these will be reported to you as "ordinary dividends" that don't qualify for relief.
Depending on your financial circumstances, it may or may not be a good idea to buy shares right before the fund goes ex-dividend. For instance, the distribution could be relatively small, with only minor tax consequences. Or the market could be moving up, with share prices expected to be higher after the ex-dividend date. To find out a fund's ex-dividend date, call the fund directly. Please call if you'd like more information on how dividends paid out by mutual funds affect your taxes this year and next.

Year-End Giving To Reduce Your Potential Estate Tax

The federal gift and estate tax exemption, which is currently set at $5.49 million, is set to increase to $5.60 million in 2018. ATRA set the maximum estate tax rate set at 40 percent. Gift Tax. For many, sound estate planning begins with lifetime gifts to family members. In other words, gifts that reduce the donor's assets subject to future estate tax. Such gifts are often made at year-end, during the holiday season, in ways that qualify for exemption from federal gift tax. Gifts to a donee are exempt from the gift tax for amounts up to $14,000 a year per donee in 2017. Next year, in 2018, the gift tax exclusion increases to $15,000, however.
Caution: An unused annual exemption doesn't carry over to later years. To make use of the exemption for 2017, you must make your gift by December 31.
Husband-wife joint gifts to any third person are exempt from gift tax for amounts up to $28,000 ($14,000 each). Though what's given may come from either you or your spouse or both of you, both of you must consent to such "split gifts." Gifts of "future interests," assets that the donee can only enjoy at some future time such as certain gifts in trust, generally don't qualify for exemption; however, gifts for the benefit of a minor child can be made to qualify.
Tip: If you're considering adopting a plan of lifetime giving to reduce future estate tax, don't hesitate to call the office for assistance.
Cash or publicly traded securities raise the fewest problems. You may choose to give property you expect to increase substantially in value later. Shifting future appreciation to your heirs keeps that value out of your estate. But this can trigger IRS questions about the gift's true value when given. You may choose to give property that has already appreciated. The idea here is that the donee, not you, will realize and pay income tax on future earnings and built-in gain on sale. Gift tax returns for 2017 are due the same date as your income tax return. Returns are required for gifts over $14,000 (including husband-wife split gifts totaling more than $14,000) and gifts of future interests. Though you are not required to file if your gifts do not exceed $14,000, you might consider filing anyway as a tactical move to block a future IRS challenge about gifts not "adequately disclosed." Please call the office if you're considering making a gift of property whose value isn't unquestionably less than $14,000. Income earned on investments you give to children or other family members are generally taxed to them, not to you. In the case of dividends paid on stock given to your children, they may qualify for the reduced child tax rate, generally 10 percent, where the first $1,050 in investment income is exempt from tax and the next $1,050 is subject to a child's tax rate of 10 percent (0 percent tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends).
Caution: In 2017, investment income for a child (under age 18 at the end of the tax year or a full-time student under age 24) that is in excess of $2,100 is taxed at the parent's tax rate.

Other Year-End Moves

Retirement Plan Contributions. Maximize your retirement plan contributions. If you own an incorporated or unincorporated business, consider setting up a retirement plan if you don't already have one. It doesn't actually need to be funded until you pay your taxes, but allowable contributions will be deductible on this year's return. If you are an employee and your employer has a 401(k), contribute the maximum amount ($18,000 for 2017), plus an additional catch-up contribution of $6,000 if age 50 or over, assuming the plan allows this and income restrictions don't apply. If you are employed or self-employed with no retirement plan, you can make a deductible contribution of up to $5,500 a year to a traditional IRA (deduction is sometimes allowed even if you have a plan). Further, there is also an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 if age 50 or over. Health Savings Accounts. Consider setting up a health savings account (HSA). You can deduct contributions to the account, investment earnings are tax-deferred until withdrawn, and amounts you withdraw are tax-free when used to pay medical bills. In effect, medical expenses paid from the account are deductible from the first dollar (unlike the usual rule limiting such deductions to the amount of excess over 10 percent of AGI). For amounts withdrawn at age 65 or later that are not used for medical bills, the HSA functions much like an IRA. To be eligible, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and only such insurance, subject to numerous exceptions, and must not be enrolled in Medicare. For 2017, to qualify for the HSA, your minimum deductible in your HDHP must be at least $1,300 for single coverage or $2,600 for a family.

Summary

These are just a few of the steps you might take. Please contact the office for assistance with implementing these and other year-end planning strategies that might be suitable to your particular situation. Go to top

Year-End Tax Planning Strategies for Businesses

There are a number of end of year tax planning strategies that businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2017. Here are a few of them:

Deferring Income

Businesses using the cash method of accounting can defer income into 2018 by delaying end-of-year invoices, so payment is not received until 2018. Businesses using the accrual method can defer income by postponing delivery of goods or services until January 2018.

Purchase New Business Equipment

Section 179 Expensing. Business should take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2017 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $510,000 for the first $2,030,000 million of property placed in service by December 31, 2017. Keep in mind that the Section 179 deduction cannot exceed net taxable business income. The deduction is phased out dollar for dollar on amounts exceeding the $2.03 million threshold and eliminated above amounts exceeding $2.5 million. Bonus Depreciation. Businesses are able to depreciate 50 percent of the cost of equipment acquired and placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, the bonus depreciation is reduced to 40 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019. Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired.
Note: Many states have not matched these amounts and, therefore, state tax may not allow for the maximum federal deduction. In this case, two sets of depreciation records will be needed to track the federal and state tax impact.
Please contact the office if you have any questions regarding qualified property. Timing. If you plan to purchase business equipment this year, consider the timing. You might be able to increase your tax benefit if you buy equipment at the right time. Here's a simplified explanation: Conventions. The tax rules for depreciation include "conventions" or rules for figuring out how many months of depreciation you can claim. There are three types of conventions. To select the correct convention, you must know the type of property and when you placed the property in service.
    1. The half-year convention: This convention applies to all property except residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores (see mid-month convention below) unless the mid-quarter convention applies. All property that you begin using during the year is treated as "placed in service" (or "disposed of") at the midpoint of the year. This means that no matter when you begin using (or dispose of) the property, you treat it as if you began using it in the middle of the year.
Example: You buy a $40,000 piece of machinery on December 15. If the half-year convention applies, you get one-half year of depreciation on that machine.
    1. The mid-quarter convention: The mid-quarter convention must be used if the cost of equipment placed in service during the last three months of the tax year is more than 40 percent of the total cost of all property placed in service for the entire year. If the mid-quarter convention applies, the half-year rule does not apply, and you treat all equipment placed in service during the year as if it were placed in service at the midpoint of the quarter in which you began using it.
    2. The mid-month convention: This convention applies only to residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores. It treats all property placed in service (or disposed of) during any month as placed in service (or disposed of) on the midpoint of that month.
If you're planning on buying equipment for your business, call the office and speak with a tax professional who can help you figure out the best time to buy that equipment and take full advantage of these tax rules.

Other Year-End Moves to Take Advantage Of

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Small business employers with 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees (average annual wages of $52,400 in 2017) may qualify for a tax credit to help pay for employees' health insurance. The credit is 50 percent (35 percent for non-profits). Business Energy Investment Tax Credit. Business energy investment tax credits are still available for eligible systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2021, and businesses that want to take advantage of these tax credits can still do so. Business energy credits include geothermal electric, large wind (expires in 2019), and solar energy systems used to generate electricity, to heat or cool (or to provide hot water for use in) a structure, or to provide solar process heat. Hybrid solar lighting systems, which use solar energy to illuminate the inside of a structure using fiber-optic distributed sunlight, are eligible; however, passive solar and solar pool-heating systems excluded are excluded. Utilities are allowed to use the credits as well. Repair Regulations. Where possible, end of year repairs and expenses should be deducted immediately, rather than capitalized and depreciated. Small businesses lacking applicable financial statements (AFS) are able to take advantage of de minimis safe harbor by electing to deduct smaller purchases ($2,500 or less per purchase or per invoice). Businesses with applicable financial statements are able to deduct $5,000. Small business with gross receipts of $10 million or less can also take advantage of safe harbor for repairs, maintenance, and improvements to eligible buildings. Please call if you would like more information on this topic. Partnership or S-Corporation Basis. Partners or S corporation shareholders in entities that have a loss for 2017 can deduct that loss only up to their basis in the entity. However, they can take steps to increase their basis to allow a larger deduction. Basis in the entity can be increased by lending the entity money or making a capital contribution by the end of the entity's tax year.
Caution: Remember that by increasing basis, you're putting more of your funds at risk. Consider whether the loss signals further troubles ahead.
Section 199 Deduction. Businesses with manufacturing activities could qualify for a Section 199 domestic production activities deduction. By accelerating salaries or bonuses attributable to domestic production gross receipts in the last quarter of 2017, businesses can increase the amount of this deduction. Please call to find out how your business can take advantage of Section 199. Retirement Plans. Self-employed individuals who have not yet done so should set up self-employed retirement plans before the end of 2017. Call today if you need help setting up a retirement plan. Dividend Planning. Reduce accumulated corporate profits and earnings by issuing corporate dividends to shareholders. Budgets. Every business, whether small or large should have a budget. The need for a business budget may seem obvious, but many companies overlook this critical business planning tool. A budget is extremely effective in making sure your business has adequate cash flow and in ensuring financial success. Once the budget has been created, then monthly actual revenue amounts can be compared to monthly budgeted amounts. If actual revenues fall short of budgeted revenues, expenses must generally be cut.
Tip: Year-end is the best time for business owners to meet with their accountants to budget revenues and expenses for the following year.
If you need help developing a budget for your business, don't hesitate to call.

Call a Tax Professional First

These are just a few of the year-end planning tax moves that could make a substantial difference in your tax bill for 2017. If you'd like more information about tax planning for 2018, please call to schedule a consultation to discuss your specific tax and financial needs, and develop a plan that works for your business. Go to top

Charitable Contributions of Property

If you contribute property to a qualified organization, the amount of your charitable contribution is generally the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. However, if the property fits into one of the categories discussed here, the amount of your deduction must be decreased. As with many aspects of tax law, the rules are quite complex. If you're considering a charitable contribution of property, here's what you need to know: After discussing how to determine the fair market value of something you donate, we'll discuss the following categories of charitable gifts of property:
  • Contributions subject to special rules
  • Property that has decreased in value;
  • Property that has increased in value;
  • Food Inventory.
  • Bargain Sales.

Determining Fair Market Value

Fair market value is the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of all of the relevant facts. Used Clothing and Household Items The fair market value of used clothing and used household goods, such as furniture and furnishings, electronics, appliances, linens, and other similar items is typically the price that buyers of used items actually pay clothing stores, such as consignment or thrift shops. Be prepared to support your valuation of other household items, which must be in good used condition unless valued at more than $500 by a qualified appraisal, with photographs, canceled checks, receipts from your purchase of the items, or other evidence. Cars, Boats, and Aircraft The FMV of a donated car, boat, or airplane is generally the amount listed in a used vehicle pricing guide for a private party sale, not the dealer retail value, of a similar vehicle. The FMV may be less than that, however, if the vehicle has engine trouble, body damage, high mileage, or any type of excessive wear. Except for inexpensive small boats, the valuation of boats should be based on an appraisal by a marine surveyor because the physical condition is so critical to the value. If you donate a qualified vehicle to a qualified organization, and you claim a deduction of more than $500, you can deduct the smaller of the gross proceeds from the sale of the vehicle by the organization or the vehicle's fair market value on the date of the contribution. If the vehicle's fair market value was more than your cost or other basis, you might have to reduce the fair market value to figure the deductible amount. Paintings, Antiques, and Other Objects of Art Deductions for contributions of paintings, antiques, and other objects of art should be supported by a written appraisal from a qualified and reputable source unless the deduction is $5,000 or less.
    1. Art valued at $20,000 or more. If you claim a deduction of $20,000 or more for donations of art, you must attach a complete copy of the signed appraisal to your return. For individual objects valued at $20,000 or more, a photograph of a size and quality fully showing the object, preferably an 8 x 10-inch color photograph or a color transparency no smaller than 4 x 5 inches, must be provided upon request.
 
  1. Art valued at $50,000 or more. If you donate an item of art that has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can request a Statement of Value for that item from the IRS. You must request the statement before filing the tax return that reports the donation.

Contributions Subject to Special Rules

Special rules apply if you contribute:
  • Clothing or household items,
  • A car, boat, or airplane,
  • Taxidermy property,
  • Property subject to a debt,
  • A partial interest in property,
  • A fractional interest in tangible personal property,
  • A qualified conservation contribution,
  • A future interest in tangible personal property,
  • Inventory from your business, or
  • A patent or other intellectual property.

Donating Property That Has Decreased in Value

If you contribute property with a fair market value that is less than your basis in it (generally, less than what you paid for it), your deduction is limited to its fair market value. You cannot claim a deduction for the difference between the property's basis and its fair market value. Common examples of property that decreases in value include clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars.

Donating Property That Has Increased in Value

If you contribute property with a fair market value that is more than your basis in it, you may have to reduce the fair market value by the amount of appreciation (increase in value) when you figure your deduction. Again, your basis in the property is generally what you paid for it. Different rules apply to figuring your deduction, depending on whether the property is Ordinary income property, Capital gain property, or Ordinary Income Property.

Ordinary Income Property

Property is ordinary income property if its sale at fair market value on the date it was contributed would have resulted in ordinary income or in short-term capital gain. Examples of ordinary income property are inventory, works of art created by the donor, manuscripts prepared by the donor, and capital assets held 1 year or less. Equipment or other property used in a trade or business is considered ordinary income property to the extent of any gain that would have been treated as ordinary income under the tax law, had the property been sold at its fair market value at the time of contribution.

Capital Gain Property

Property is capital gain property if its sale at fair market value on the date of the contribution would have resulted in a long-term capital gain. Capital gain property includes capital assets held more than 1 year. Capital assets. Capital assets include most items of property that you own and use for personal purposes or investment. Examples of capital assets are stocks, bonds, jewelry, coin or stamp collections, and cars or furniture used for personal purposes. For purposes of figuring your charitable contribution, capital assets also include certain real property and depreciable property used in your trade or business and, generally, held more than 1 year. Real property. Real property is land and generally, anything that is built on, growing on, or attached to land. Depreciable property. Depreciable property is property used in business or held for the production of income and for which a depreciation deduction is allowed. Ordinary or capital gain income included in gross income. You do not reduce your charitable contribution if you include the ordinary or capital gain income in your gross income in the same year as the contribution. This may happen when you transfer installment or discount obligations or when you assign income to a charitable organization.

Food Inventory

Special rules apply to certain donations of food inventory to a qualified organization. Please call if you would like information about donations of food inventory.

Bargain Sales

A bargain sale of property to a qualified organization (a sale or exchange for less than the property's fair market value) is partly a charitable contribution and partly a sale or exchange. The part of the bargain sale that is a sale or exchange may result in a taxable gain.

Seek advice from a tax professional.

Stiff penalties may be assessed by the IRS if you overstate the value or adjusted basis of donated property. If you're considering a charitable contribution of property, don't hesitate to call the office to speak with a qualified tax professional. Go to top

Small Business: Tax Breaks for Charitable Giving

Tax breaks for charitable giving aren't limited to individuals, your small business can benefit as well. If you own a small to medium size business and are committed to giving back to the community through charitable giving, here's what you should know.

1. Verify that the Organization is a Qualified Charity.

Once you've identified a charity, you'll need to make sure it is a qualified charitable organization under the IRS. Qualified organizations must meet specific requirements as well as IRS criteria and are often referred to as 501(c)(3) organizations. Note that not all tax-exempt organizations are 501(c)(3) status, however. There are two ways to verify whether a charity is qualified: use the IRS online search tool or ask the charity to send you a copy of their IRS determination letter confirming their exempt status.

2. Make Sure the Deduction is Eligible

Not all deductions are created equal. In order to take the deduction on a tax return, you need to make sure it qualifies. Charitable giving includes the following: cash donations, sponsorship of local charity events, in-kind contributions such as property such as inventory or equipment. Lobbying. A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks the loss of its tax-exempt status. As such, you cannot claim a charitable deduction (or business expense) for amounts paid to an organization if both of the following apply.
  • The organization conducts lobbying activities on matters of direct financial interest to your business.
  • A principal purpose of your contribution is to avoid the rules discussed earlier that prohibit a business deduction for lobbying expenses.
Further, if a tax-exempt organization, other than a section 501(c)(3) organization, provides you with a notice on the part of dues that is allocable to nondeductible lobbying and political expenses, you cannot deduct that part of the dues.

3. Understand the Limitations

Sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, or shareholders in an S-corporation may be able to deduct charitable contributions made by their business on Schedule A (Form 1040). Corporations (other than S-corporations) can deduct charitable contributions on their income tax returns, subject to limitations.
Note: Cash payments to an organization, charitable or otherwise, may be deductible as business expenses if the payments are not charitable contributions or gifts and are directly related to your business. Likewise, if the payments are charitable contributions or gifts, you cannot deduct them as business expenses.
Sole Proprietorships As a sole proprietor (or single-member LLC), you file your business taxes using Schedule C of individual tax form 1040. Your business does not make charitable contributions separately. Charitable contributions are deducted using Schedule A, and you must itemize in order to take the deductions. Partnerships Partnerships do not pay income taxes. Rather, the income and expenses (including deductions for charitable contributions) are passed on to the partners on each partner's individual Schedule K-1. If the partnership makes a charitable contribution, then each partner takes a percentage share of the deduction on his or her personal tax return. For example, if the partnership has four equal partners and donates a total of $2,000 to a qualified charitable organization in 2017, each partner can claim a $500 charitable deductions on his or her 2017 tax return.
Note: A donation of cash or property reduces the value of the partnership. For example, if a partnership donates office equipment to a qualified charity, the office equipment is no longer owned by the partnership, and the total value of the partnership is reduced. Therefore, each partner's share of the total value of the partnership is reduced accordingly.
S-Corporations S-Corporations are similar to Partnerships, with each shareholder receiving a Schedule K-1 showing the amount of charitable contribution. C-Corporations Unlike sole proprietors, Partnerships and S-corporations, C-Corporations are separate entities from their owners. As such, a corporation can make charitable contributions and take deductions for those contributions.

4. Categorize Donations

Each category of donation has its own criteria with regard to whether it's deductible and to what extent. For example, mileage and travel expenses related to services performed for the charitable organization are deductible but time spent on volunteering your services is not. Here's another example: As a board member, your duties may include hosting fundraising events. While the time you spend as a board member is not deductible, expenses related to hosting the fundraiser such as stationery for invitations and telephone costs related to the event are deductible. Generally, you can deduct up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income. Non-cash donations of more than $500 require completion of Form 8283, which is attached to your tax return. In addition, contributions are only deductible in the tax year in which they're made.

5. Keep Good Records

The types of records you must keep vary according to the type of donation (cash, non-cash, out of pocket expenses when donating your services) and the importance of keeping good records cannot be overstated. Ask for--and make sure you receive--a letter from any organizations stating that said organization received a contribution from your business. You should also keep canceled checks, bank and credit card statements, and payroll deduction records as proof or your donation. Further, the IRS requires proof of payment and an acknowledgment letter for donations of $250 or more. Here are six things to keep in mind about charitable donations and written acknowledgments:
1. Taxpayers who make single donations of $250 or more to a charity must have one of the following:
  • A separate acknowledgment from the organization for each donation of $250 or more.
  • One acknowledgment from the organization listing the amount and date of each contribution of $250 or more.
2. The $250 threshold doesn't mean a taxpayer adds up separate contributions of less than $250 throughout the year. For example, if someone gave a $25 offering to his or her church each week, they don't need an acknowledgment from the church, even though their contributions for the year are more than $250. 3. Contributions made by payroll deduction are treated as separate contributions for each pay period. 4. If a taxpayer makes a payment that is partly for goods and services, their deductible contribution is the amount of the payment that is more than the value of those goods and services. 5. A taxpayer must get the acknowledgment on or before the earlier of these two dates:
  • The date they file their return for the year in which they make the contribution.
  • The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
6. If the acknowledgment doesn't show the date of the contribution, the taxpayers must also have a bank record or receipt that does show the date.
If you're a small business owner, don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about charitable donations. Go to top

Reconstructing Records After a Disaster

As the end of year approaches and tax season right around the corner, taxpayers who are victims of a natural disaster might need to reconstruct records to prove their loss. Doing this may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. With that in mind, here are some tips will help individual taxpayers, as well as business owners, reconstruct their records after a disaster:

Individual Taxpayers

1. Taxpayers can get free tax return transcripts by using the Get Transcript tool on IRS.gov or use their smartphone with the IRS2Go mobile phone app. They can also call 800-908-9946 to order them by phone. 2. To establish the extent of the damage, taxpayers should take photographs or videos as soon after the disaster as possible. 3. Taxpayers can contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of their home to get copies of appropriate documents. 4. Homeowners should review their insurance policy as the policy usually lists the value of a building to establish a base figure for replacement. 5. Taxpayers who made improvements to their home should contact the contractors who did the work to see if records are available. If possible, the homeowner should get statements from the contractors to verify the work and cost. They can also get written accounts from friends and relatives who saw the house before and after any improvements. 6. For inherited property, taxpayers can check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, the taxpayer could contact the attorney who handled the trust. 7. When no other records are available, taxpayers can check the county assessor's office for old records that might address the value of the property. 8. There are several resources including Kelley's Blue Book, National Automobile Dealers Association, and Edmunds that can help someone determine the current fair-market value of most cars on the road. These resources are all available online and at most libraries: 9. Taxpayers can look on their mobile phone for pictures that show the damaged property before the disaster. 10. Taxpayers can support the valuation of property with photographs, videos, canceled checks, receipts, or other evidence. 11. If they bought items using a credit card or debit card, they should contact their credit card company or bank for past statements. 12. If a taxpayer doesn't have photographs or videos of their property, a simple method to help them remember what items they lost is to sketch pictures of each room that was impacted.

Small Business Owners

After a disaster, many business owners might need to reconstruct records to prove a loss as well. Here are four tips that may be helpful for business owners that need to reconstruct their records: 1. To create a list of lost inventories, business owners can get copies of invoices from suppliers. Whenever possible, the invoices should date back at least one calendar year. 2. For information about income, business owners can get copies of last year's federal, state and local tax returns. These include sales tax reports, payroll tax returns, and business licenses from the city or county. These will reflect gross sales for a given period. 3. Owners should check their mobile phone or other cameras for pictures and videos of their building, equipment, and inventory. 4. Business owners who don't have photographs or videos can simply sketch an outline of the inside and outside of their location. For example, for the inside the building, they can draw out where equipment and inventory were located. For the outside of the building, they can map out the locations of items such as shrubs, parking, signs, and awnings. Help is Just a Phone Call Away If you have been a victim of a natural disaster this year, and need assistance reconstructing tax records, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

New e-Services Scam Affects Taxpayers, Tax Pros

As IRS e-Services begins its move later this month to Secure Access authentication and its two-factor protections, cybercriminals are likely to make last-ditch efforts to steal passwords and data prior to the transition. IRS e-Services users should be aware of a new phishing scam that tries to trick tax professionals into "signing" a new e-Services user agreement. The phishing scam seeks to steal passwords and data.These and other sophisticated schemes are adaptive in nature, and everyone should be cautious before clicking on a link or entering sensitive personal information. How the e-Services Scam Works The scam email claims to be from "e-Services Registration" and uses "Important Update about Your e-Services Account" in the subject line. It states, in part, "We are rolling out a new user agreement, and all registered users must accept its revised terms to have access to e-Services and its products." It asks the individual to review and accept the agreement but takes them to a fake site instead. What to do if you Clicked on a Link For those who may have clicked on this link, perform a deep scan with security software, and then contact IT/cybersecurity personnel and the IRS e-Help Desk on IRS.gov. Questions or Concerns? Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about IRS e-Services or believe you may have been a victim of an IRS-related scam. To learn more about what the IRS is doing to protect accounts with Secure Access authentication, please visit the e-Services landing page on the IRS website. Go to top

Solar Technology Tax Credits Available for 2017

Certain energy-efficient home improvements can cut your energy bills and save you money at tax time. While many of these tax credits expired at the end of 2016, tax credits for residential and non-business energy-efficient solar technologies do not expire until December 31, 2021. Here are some key facts that you should know about these tax credits:

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters and solar electric equipment placed into service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2021.
  • There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008.
  • The tax credit does not apply to solar water-heating property for swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year's tax return.
  • At least half the energy used to heat the dwelling's water must be from solar in order for the solar water-heating property expenditures to be eligible.
  • Solar water-heating equipment must be certified for performance by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the government of the state in which the property is installed.
  • The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home.
  • Use Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, to claim the credit.
Equipment costs such as assembling or installing original systems, on-site labor costs, and costs related to wiring or piping solar technology systems are considered final when the installation is complete. For a new home, the placed in service date is the occupancy date. The maximum allowable credit varies by the type of technology: Solar-electric property
  • 30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
  • 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
  • 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
Solar water-heating property
  • 30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
  • 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
  • 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
If you would like more information about this topic please contact the office today. Go to top

Seasonal Workers and the Health Care Law

Businesses often need to hire workers on a seasonal or part-time basis. For example, some businesses may need seasonal help for holidays, harvest seasons, commercial fishing, or sporting events. Whether you are getting paid or paying someone else, questions often arise over whether these seasonal workers affect employers with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For the purposes of the Affordable Care Act the size of an employer is determined by the number of employees. As such, employer-offered benefits, opportunities, and requirements are dependent upon your organization's size and the applicable rules. For instance, if you have at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, you are an ALE (Applicable Large Employer) for the current calendar year. If you hire seasonal or holiday workers, you should know how these employees are counted under the health care law: Seasonal worker. A seasonal worker is generally defined for this purpose as an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis, generally for not more than four months (or 120 days). Retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons, for example, are seasonal workers. Seasonal employee. In contrast, a seasonal employee is an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less, where the term "customary employment" refers to an employee who typically works each calendar year in approximately the same part of the year, such as summer or winter. The terms seasonal worker and seasonal employee are both used in the employer shared responsibility provisions but in two different contexts. Only the term seasonal worker is relevant for determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions; however, there is an exception for seasonal workers:
Exception: If your workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 during that period were seasonal workers, your organization is not considered an ALE.
For additional information on hiring seasonal workers and how it affects the employer shared responsibility provisions please call. Go to top

Tax Deductions for Educators

With the fall semester of the school year well underway teachers, administrators and aides should not forget to keep track of education-related expenses that could help reduce their taxes when they file their returns next spring. With that in mind, let's take a look at three key work-related tax benefits that are available to educators. Educators can take advantage of tax deductions for qualified expenses related to their profession. The costs many educators incur out-of-pocket include items such as classroom supplies, training and travel. There are two methods educators can choose for deducting qualified expenses: Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction (up to $250) or, for those who itemize their deductions, claiming eligible work-related expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. A third key benefit enables many teachers and other educators to take advantage of various education tax benefits for their ongoing educational pursuits, especially the Lifetime Learning Credit or, in some instances depending on their circumstances, the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Educator Expense Deduction

Educators can deduct up to $250 ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each) of unreimbursed business expenses. The educator expense deduction is available even if an educator doesn't itemize their deductions. To do so, the taxpayer must be a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under state law. Those who qualify can deduct costs like books, supplies, computer equipment and software, classroom equipment and supplementary materials used in the classroom. Expenses for participation in professional development courses are also deductible. Athletic supplies qualify if used for courses in health or physical education.

Itemizing Deductions using Schedule A

Often educators have qualifying classroom and professional development expenses that exceed the $250 limit. In that case, the IRS encourages them to claim these excess expenses as a miscellaneous deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040 or Form 1040NR). In addition, educators can claim other work-related expenses, such as the cost of subscriptions to professional journals, professional licenses, and union dues. Transportation expenses may also be deductible in situations such as, for example, where an educator assigned to teach at two different schools needs to drive from one school to the other on the same day. Miscellaneous deductions of this kind are subject to a two-percent limit. This means that a taxpayer must subtract two percent of their adjusted gross income from the total qualifying miscellaneous deduction amount. For more information, see Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions or call the office for assistance.

Keeping Records

Educators should keep detailed records of qualifying expenses noting the date, amount, and purpose of each purchase. This will help prevent a missed deduction at tax time. Taxpayers should also keep a copy of their tax return for at least three years. Copies of tax returns may be needed for many reasons. If applying for college financial aid, a tax transcript may be all that is needed. A tax transcript summarizes return information and includes adjusted gross income. Tax transcripts are available free of charge from the IRS. The quickest way to get a copy of a tax transcript is to use the Get Transcript application on the IRS website. After verifying identity, taxpayers can view and print their transcript immediately online. The online application includes a robust identity verification process. Those who can't pass the verification must request the transcript be mailed. This takes five to 10 days, so plan ahead and request the transcript early. Questions about tax deductions for educators? Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions about tax deduction available to educators including teachers, administrators, and aides. Go to top

Relief for Drought-Stricken Farmers and Ranchers

Farmers and ranchers who previously were forced to sell livestock due to drought in an applicable region now have an additional year to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales, according to the Internal Revenue Service. An applicable region is a county designated as eligible for federal assistance plus counties contiguous to that county. This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible. To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance. Under these circumstances, livestock generally must be replaced within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period. But in addition, the IRS is authorized to extend this replacement period further if the drought continues. The one-year extension of the replacement period gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock. The IRS provides this extension to farmers and ranchers located in the applicable region that qualified for the four-year replacement period if any county, parish, city, or district, that is included in the applicable region is listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), during any weekly period between Sept. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. All or part of 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, are listed. A taxpayer may determine whether exceptional, extreme, or severe drought is reported for any location in the applicable region by reference to U.S. Drought Monitor maps that are produced on a weekly basis by the National Drought Mitigation Center. U.S. Drought Monitor maps are archived at the National Drought Mitigation Center. In addition, in September of each year, the IRS publishes a list of counties, districts, cities, boroughs, census areas or parishes (hereinafter "counties") for which exceptional, extreme, or severe drought was reported during the preceding 12 months. Taxpayers may use this list instead of U.S. Drought Monitor maps to determine whether exceptional, extreme, or severe drought has been reported for any location in the applicable region. As a result, farmers and ranchers in the applicable region whose drought sale replacement period was scheduled to expire at the end of this tax year, Dec. 31, 2017, in most cases, will now have until the end of their next tax year. Because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2013. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these localities, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2013 are also affected. Additional extensions will be granted if severe drought conditions persist. For additional details on tax relief for drought-stricken farmers and ranchers please contact the office. Go to top

Creating Customer Statements in QuickBooks

Let's say you have a regular customer who used to pay on time, but he's been hit-and-miss lately. How do you get him caught up? Or, one of your customers thinks she's paid you more than she owes. How do you straighten out this account? Both of these situations have a similar solution: QuickBooks' Statements. QuickBooks' statements provide an overview of every transaction that has occurred between you and individual customers during a specified period of time. They're easy to create, easy to understand, and can be effective at resolving payment disputes.

A Simple Process

Here's how they work. Click Statements on the home page, or open the Customers menu and select Create Statements. A window like this will open: Figure 1: QuickBooks provides multiple options on this screen so you create the statement(s) you need. First, make sure the Statement Date is correct, so that your statement captures the precise set of transactions that you want. Next, you will need to tell QuickBooks what that set is. Should the statement(s) include transactions only within a specific date range? If so, then click the button in front of Statement Period From, and enter that period's beginning and ending dates by clicking on the calendar graphic. If you would rather, you can include all open transactions by clicking on the button in front of that option. As you can see in the screenshot above, you can choose to Include only transactions over a specified number of days past due date.

Choosing Customers

Now, you need to tell QuickBooks which customers you want to include in this statement run. Your options here are:  
    • All Customers.
 
    • Multiple Customers. When you click on this choice, QuickBooks displays a Choosebutton. Click on it, and your customer list opens in a new window. Click on your selections there to create a check mark. Click OK to return to the previous window.
 
    • One Customer. QuickBooks displays a drop-down menu. Click the arrow on the right side of the box, and choose the correct one from the list that opens.
 
    • Customers of Type. Again, a drop-down list appears, but this one contains a list of the Customer Types you created to filter your customer list, like Commercial and Residential. You would have assigned one of these to customers when you were entering data in their QuickBooks records (click the Additional Info tab in a record to view).
 
  • Preferred Send Method. E-mail or Mail?

Miscellaneous Options

At the top of the right column, you can select a different Template if you would like, or Customize an existing one. Not familiar with the options you have to change the layout and content of forms in QuickBooks? Let one of our QuickBooks experts introduce you to the possibilities. Below that, you can opt to Create One Statement either Per Customer or Per Job. The rest of the choices here are pretty self-explanatory--except for Assess Finance Charges. If you have never done this, then it may be helpful to call the office and arrange for a QuickBooks pro to work with you on this complex process. When you are satisfied with the options that you have selected in this window, click the Preview button in the lower left corner of the window (not pictured here). QuickBooks will then prepare all the statements in the background, and display the first one. Click Next to view them one by one. At the bottom of each, you will see a summary of how much is due in each aging period, like this: Figure 2: It is easy to see how much each customer is past due within each aging period. This summary appears at the bottom of statements. After you have checked all the statements, click the Print or E-mail button at the bottom of the window.

Other Avenues

Your company's cash flow depends on the timely payment of invoices. Sending statements is only one way to encourage your customers to catch up on their past due accounts. There are many others, like opening a merchant account so customers can pay you online with a bank card or electronic check. If poor cash flow is threatening the health of your business, a QuickBooks professional can help. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for November 2017

Anytime

Employers - Income Tax Withholding. Ask employees whose withholding allowances will be different in 2018 to fill out a new Form W-4. The 2018 revision of Form W-4 will be available on the IRS website by mid-December.

November 13

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during October, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the third quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

November 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

October 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


What you need to know about the Equifax Data Breach

Background: What is Equifax?

Equifax is one of three major U.S. credit reporting bureaus. The other two are TransUnion and Experian. There is also a smaller, less well-known credit-reporting agency called Innovis (aka CBCInnovis) that operates slightly different in that its main purpose is to provide mortgage credit reporting services to the financial services industry. Equifax, like TransUnion and Experian, track the financial histories of consumers and use this information to analyze whether a person is "credit-worthy" by issuing them a credit score. The credit score is based on the credit history contained in the credit report, a record of consumers' financial histories. Credit reports are comprised of information about your bill payment history, loans, current debt, and other financial information. Credit reports also contain information about where you work and live and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Credit reports, which are also called credit records, credit files, and credit histories, help lenders decide whether or not to extend you credit or approve a loan, and determine what interest rate they will charge you. Prospective employers, insurers, and rental property owners may also look at your credit report. Typically, the information collected on consumers is sold by the credit bureau (e.g., Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) to credit card companies and other financial institutions. What Happened? The hackers had access to data from May 2017 to July 2017, including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers and credit card numbers. Who is Affected? As many as 145.5 million people in the United States were affected, as well as 400,000 in the United Kingdom and 8,000 consumers in Canada. Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers were accessed, according to Equifax.

What to do if it is likely that you were impacted by the Equifax data breach

The first thing you should do (if you haven't already) is to obtain and review your credit report(s) and determine whether there's been any unusual activity. Next, check whether your data has been hacked using the special website Equifax set up for data breach victims (www.equifaxsecurity2017.com). You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number. From there you can sign up for their free credit monitoring service. You won't be able to enroll immediately; however, but will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Keep in mind that Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll so you should mark the date on your calendar so that you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
Note: Equifax removed the arbitration clause from the website that was set up for data breach victims. The arbitration clause stated that by signing up for the free I.D. theft protection and monitoring from its TrustedID service a consumer could not take legal action against the company--including participating in any class-action lawsuits that might arise from the breach.
Freeze your credit report accounts at each of the credit bureaus. Freezing your credit reports (make sure to freeze your account at each of the credit bureaus) prevents anyone (including new creditors) from accessing your account. Equifax has waived the fee until November 21, 2017) and has agreed to refund fees to those who have paid since September 7, which is the date that the data breach was announced. If you do not want to freeze your credit account, you can place a fraud alert on the account. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
Note: Unfortunately, a freeze on your credit report does not necessarily mean that your bank accounts and other identity-related information is safe. Furthermore, if you do need access to your credit report, you will need to pay a fee to "unfreeze" it.
Get in the habit of periodically check your bank, credit card, retirement, and other financial accounts that could potentially be impacted now or down the road and make sure your Internet security (antivirus, firewall, malware detector, etc.) is working properly. Finally, filing your taxes earlier, rather than later (i.e., at the last minute) helps prevent a hacker from filing a tax return using your stolen identifying information.

Precautions to take if it appears that you were notimpacted by the Equifax data breach

Even if the Equifax data breach website states that you were not affected, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your credit reports, bank accounts, credit card accounts and other financial information. You can freeze your credit accounts as well (see above) and sign up for fraud protection.

Watch out for Equifax-related Scams

If you receive a phone call and the person on the other end says, "This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Hang up immediately. It's a scam because Equifax will not call you out of the blue. Every year, thousands of people lose money to telephone scams from a few dollars to their life savings. Scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money. Some seem very friendly-- calling you by your first name, making small talk, and asking about your family. They may claim to work for a company you trust, or they may send email or place ads to convince you to call them. If you get a call from someone you don't know who is trying to sell you something you hadn't planned to buy, say "No thanks." And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information--like your credit card or Social Security number--don't give in. Simply hang up. Tips for recognizing and preventing phone scams and imposter scams:
  • Don't give out personal information. Don't provide any personal or financial information unless you've initiated the call and it's to a phone number that you know is correct.
  • Don't trust caller ID either. Scammers can spoof their numbers, so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they're not.
  • If you get a robocall, hang up. Don't press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
If you've already received a call that you think is fake, report it to the FTC. If you gave your personal information to an imposter, change any compromised passwords, account numbers or security questions immediately. If you're concerned about identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how you can protect yourself. Stay safe and take steps to protect your data. If you have any questions or concerns about the Equifax data breach and your taxes help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Tax-Saving Strategies that Reduce your Tax Liability

If you're looking to save money on your taxes this year, consider using one or more of these tax-saving strategies to reduce your income, lower your tax bracket, and minimize your tax bill.

Max Out Your 401(k) or Contribute to an IRA

You've heard it before, but it's worth repeating because it's one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of saving money for your retirement. Many employers offer plans where you can elect to defer a portion of your salary and contribute it to a tax-deferred retirement account. For most companies, these are referred to as 401(k) plans. For many other employers, such as universities, a similar plan called a 403(b) is available. Check with your employer about the availability of such a plan and contribute as much as possible to defer income and accumulate retirement assets.
Tip: Some employers match a portion of employee contributions to such plans. If this is available, you should structure your contributions to receive the maximum employer matching contribution.
If you have income from wages or self-employment income, you can build tax-sheltered investments by contributing to a traditional (pre-tax contributions) or a Roth IRA (after-tax contributions). You may also be able to contribute to a spousal IRA even when your spouse has little or no earned income.
Tip: To get the most from IRA contributions, fund the IRA as early as possible in the year. Also, pay the IRA trustee out of separate funds, not out of the amount in the IRA. Following these two rules will ensure that you get the most tax-deferred earnings possible from your money.

Take Advantage of Employer Benefit Plans Such as Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Spending Accounts (HSAs)

Medical and dental expenses are generally only deductible to the extent they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For most individuals, particularly those with high income, this eliminates the possibility for a deduction. However, you can effectively get a deduction for these items if your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account (sometimes called a cafeteria plan). These plans permit you to redirect a portion of your salary to pay these types of expenses with pre-tax dollars. Another such arrangement is a Health Savings Account. Ask your employer if they provide either of these plans.

Bunch Your Itemized Deductions

Certain itemized deductions, such as medical or employment-related expenses, are only deductible if they exceed a certain amount. It may be advantageous to delay payments in one year and prepay them in the next year to bunch the expenses in one year. This way you stand a better chance of getting a deduction.

Use the Gift-Tax Exclusion to Shift Income

In 2017, you can give away $14,000 ($28,000 if joined by a spouse) per donee, per year without paying federal gift tax. And, you can give $14,000 to as many donees as you like. The income on these transfers will then be taxed at the donee's tax rate, which is in many cases lower.
Note: Special rules apply to children under age 18. Also, if you directly pay the medical or educational expenses of the donee, such gifts will not be subject to gift tax. For gift tax purposes, contributions to Qualified Tuition Programs (Section 529) are treated as completed gifts even though the account owner has the right to withdraw them. As such, they qualify for the up-to-$14,000 annual gift tax exclusion in 2017. One contributing more than $14,000 may elect to treat the gift as made in equal installments over the year of gift and the following four years so that up to $56,000 can be given tax-free in the first year.

Consider Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds

Interest on state or local municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal income tax and from tax by the issuing state or locality. For that reason, interest paid on such bonds is somewhat less than that paid on commercial bonds of comparable quality. However, for individuals in higher brackets, the interest from municipal bonds will often be greater than from higher paying commercial bonds after reduction for taxes. Gain on sale of municipal bonds is taxable, and loss is deductible. Tax-exempt interest is sometimes an element in the computation of other tax items. Interest on loans to buy or carry tax-exempts is non-deductible.

Give Appreciated Assets to Charity

If you're planning to make a charitable gift, it generally makes more sense to give appreciated long-term capital assets to the charity, instead of selling the assets and giving the charity the after-tax proceeds. Donating the assets instead of the cash prevents your having to pay capital gains tax on the sale, which can result in considerable savings, depending on your tax bracket and the amount of tax that would be due on the sale. Additionally, you can obtain a tax deduction for the fair market value of the property.
Tip: Many taxpayers also give depreciated assets to charity. Deduction is for fair market value; no loss deduction is allowed for depreciation in value of a personal asset. Depending on the item donated, there may be strict valuation rules and deduction limits.
Tip: Taxpayers age 70 1/2 and older can take advantage of tax benefits associated with Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)--IRA withdrawals that are transferred directly to a qualified charitable organization.

Keep Track of Mileage Driven for Medical or Charitable Purposes

If you drive your car for medical or charitable purposes, you may be entitled to a deduction for miles driven. For 2017, it's 17 cents for medical and moving purposes and 14 cents for service for charitable organizations. You need to keep detailed daily records of the mileage driven for these purposes to substantiate the deduction.

If you are Self-Employed...

As a self-employed business owner you can also take advantage of additional tax saving strategies such as: Special Deductions and Tax Credits You may be able to expense up to $510,000 ($500,000 adjusted for inflation) in 2017 for qualified equipment purchases for use in your business immediately instead of writing it off over many years. Additionally, self-employed individuals can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums as business expenses. If you provide health insurance to your employees, you may be able to benefit from the small business health care tax credit (see below). Finally, if you use your car for business, you may be able to deduct 53.5 cents per business mile driven in 2017 (more about this below). Setting Up and Contributing to a Retirement Plan If you have your own business, consider setting up and contributing as much as possible to a retirement plan such as Keogh plan, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or SIMPLE IRA plan. These are allowed even for a sideline or moonlighting businesses. Several types of plans are available which minimize the paperwork involved in establishing and administering such a plan. Hiring Your Child in the Business If your child is under age 18, he or she is not subject to employment taxes such as FICA and federal unemployment taxes from your unincorporated business (income taxes still apply). In addition, your child may be able to contribute to an IRA using earned income. This will reduce your income for both income and employment tax purposes and shift assets to the child at the same time; however, you cannot hire your child if he or she is under the age of 8 years old.

A word about proper documentation...

Unfortunately, many taxpayers forgo worthwhile tax credits and deductions because they have neglected to keep proper receipts or records. Keeping adequate records is required by the IRS for employee business expenses, deductible travel and entertainment expenses, and charitable gifts and travel, and more. But don't do it just because the IRS says so. Neglecting to track these deductions can lead to overlooking them as well. You also need to maintain records regarding your income. If you receive a large tax-free amount, such as a gift or inheritance, make certain to document the item so that the IRS does not later claim that you had unreported income. If you're ready to save money on your taxes this year but aren't sure which tax-saving strategies apply to your financial situation, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Planning for Small Business Owners

What is Tax Planning?

Tax planning is the process of looking at various tax options to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business transactions to reduce or eliminate tax liability. Many small business owners ignore tax planning. They don't even think about their taxes until it's time to meet with their CPAs, EAs, or tax advisors but tax planning is an ongoing process, and good tax advice is a valuable commodity. It is to your benefit to review your income and expenses monthly and meet with your CPA, EA, or tax advisor quarterly to analyze how you can take full advantage of the provisions, credits, and deductions that are legally available to you.

Tax Planning Strategies

Countless tax planning strategies are available to small business owners. Some are aimed at the owner's individual tax situation and some at the business itself, but regardless of how simple or how complex a tax strategy is, it will be based on structuring the strategy to accomplish one or more of these often overlapping goals:
  • Reducing the amount of taxable income
  • Lowering your tax rate
  • Controlling the time when the tax must be paid
  • Claiming any available tax credits
  • Controlling the effects of the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Avoiding the most common tax planning mistakes
In order to plan effectively, you'll need to estimate your personal and business income for the next few years. This is necessary because many tax planning strategies will save tax dollars at one income level, but will create a larger tax bill at other income levels. You will want to avoid having the "right" tax plan made "wrong" by erroneous income projections. Once you know what your approximate income will be, you can take the next step: estimating your tax bracket. The effort to come up with crystal-ball estimates may be difficult and by its very nature will be inexact. On the other hand, you should already be projecting your sales revenues, income, and cash flow for general business planning purposes. The better your estimates are, the better the odds that your tax planning efforts will succeed. Here are three examples where tax planning pays for most small business owners: Maximizing Business Entertainment Expenses Entertainment expenses are legitimate deductions that can lower your tax bill and save you money, provided you follow certain guidelines. In order to qualify as a deduction, business must be discussed before, during, or after the meal and the surroundings must be conducive to a business discussion. For instance, a small, quiet restaurant would be an ideal location for a business dinner. A nightclub would not. Be careful of locations that include ongoing floor shows or other distracting events that inhibit business discussions. Prime distractions are theater locations, ski trips, golf courses, sports events, and hunting trips. The IRS allows up to a 50 percent deduction on entertainment expenses, but you must keep good records, and the business meal must be arranged with the purpose of conducting specific business. Bon appetite! Important Business Automobile Deductions If you use your car for business such as visiting clients or going to business meetings away from your regular workplace you may be able to take certain deductions for the cost of operating and maintaining your vehicle. You can deduct car expenses by taking either the standard mileage rate or using actual expenses (more about this below). In 2017, the mileage reimbursement rate is 53.5 cents per business mile (down from 54 cents per mile in 2016). If you own two cars, another way to increase deductions is to include both cars in your deductions. This works because business miles driven is determined by business use. To figure business use, divide the business miles driven by the total miles driven. This strategy can result in significant deductions. Whichever method you decide to use to take the deduction, always be sure to keep accurate records such as a mileage log and receipts. If you need assistance figuring out which method is best for your business, don't hesitate to contact the office. Increase Your Bottom Line When You Work At Home The home office deduction is quite possibly one of the most difficult deductions ever to come around the block. Yet, there are so many tax advantages it becomes worth the navigational trouble. Here are a few tips for home office deductions that can make tax season significantly less traumatic for those of you with a home office. Try prominently displaying your home business phone number and address on business cards, have business guests sign a guest log book when they visit your office, deduct long-distance phone charges, keep a time and work activity log, retain receipts and paid invoices. Keeping these receipts makes it so much easier to determine percentages of deductions later on in the year. Section 179 expensing for tax year 2017 allows you to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate over time, up to $510,000, with a cap of $2,030,000 worth of qualified business property that you purchase during the year. The key word is "purchase." Equipment can be new or used and includes certain software. All home office depreciable equipment meets the qualification. Some deductions can be taken whether or not you qualify for the home office deduction itself.

Tax Avoidance is Legal, Tax Evasion is not

Although tax avoidance planning is legal, tax evasion - the reduction of tax through deceit, subterfuge, or concealment - is not. Frequently what sets tax evasion apart from tax avoidance is the IRS's finding that there was fraudulent intent on the part of the business owner. The following are four of the areas the IRS examiners commonly focus on as pointing to possible fraud:
  1. Failure to report substantial amounts of income such as a shareholder's failure to report dividends or a store owner's failure to report a portion of the daily business receipts.
  2. Claims for fictitious or improper deductions on a return such as a sales representative's substantial overstatement of travel expenses or a taxpayer's claim of a large deduction for charitable contributions when no verification exists.
  3. Accounting irregularities such as a business's failure to keep adequate records or a discrepancy between amounts reported on a corporation's return and amounts reported on its financial statements.
  4. Improper allocation of income to a related taxpayer who is in a lower tax bracket such as where a corporation makes distributions to the controlling shareholder's children.
If you're ready to meet with a tax professional to discuss tax planning strategies for your business, call the office today. Go to top

Now is the Time to Review Withholding Allowances

With less than three months remaining in the calendar year, now is a good time to double check your federal withholding to make sure enough taxes are being taken out of your pay. Most people have taxes withheld from each paycheck or pay taxes on a quarterly basis through estimated tax payments. But each year millions of American workers have far more taxes withheld from their pay than is required. In fact, according to the IRS, the average individual income tax refund for Fiscal Year 2016 was about $3,050. As such, taxpayers might want to consider adjusting their tax withholding to bring the taxes they must pay closer to what they actually owe--and put more money in their pocket right now. On the flip side, is that some workers and retirees still need to take steps to make sure enough tax is being taken out of their checks to avoid penalties they might have to pay. Certain folks should pay particular attention to their withholding. These include:
  • Married couples with two incomes
  • Individuals with multiple jobs
  • Dependents
  • Some Social Security recipients who work
  • Workers who do not have valid Social Security numbers
  • Retirees who receive pension payments
Whether you’re starting a new job, retiring, or self-employed here is some information to help bring the taxes you pay during the year closer to what you will actually owe when you file your tax return. Employees
  • New Job. When you start a new job your employer will ask you to complete Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Your employer will use this form to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your paychecks. Be sure to complete the Form W-4 accurately.
  • Life Event. You may want to change your Form W-4 when certain life events happen to you during the year. Examples of events in your life that can change the amount of taxes you owe include a change in your marital status, the birth of a child, getting or losing a job, and purchasing a home. Keep your Form W-4 up-to-date.
You typically can submit a new Form W–4 at any time you wish to change the number of your withholding allowances. However, if your life event results in the need to decrease your withholding allowances or changes your marital status from married to single, you must give your employer a new Form W-4 within 10 days of that life event. Self-Employed
  • Form 1040-ES. If you are self-employed and expect to owe a thousand dollars or more in taxes for the year, then you normally must make estimated tax payments to pay your income tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. You can use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to find out if you are required to pay estimated tax on a quarterly basis. Remember to make estimated payments to avoid owing taxes at tax time.
Questions about withholding? Help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Deducting Business-Related Car Expenses

Whether you're self-employed or an employee, if you use a car for business, you get the benefit of tax deductions. There are two choices for claiming deductions:
  1. Deduct the actual business-related costs of gas, oil, lubrication, repairs, tires, supplies, parking, tolls, drivers' salaries, and depreciation.
  2. Use the standard mileage deduction in 2017 and simply multiply 53.5 cents by the number of business miles traveled during the year. Your actual parking fees and tolls are deducted separately under this method.

Which Method Is Better?

For some taxpayers, using the standard mileage rate produces a larger deduction. Others fare better tax-wise by deducting actual expenses.
Tip: The actual cost method allows you to claim accelerated depreciation on your car, subject to limits and restrictions not discussed here. The standard mileage amount includes an allowance for depreciation. Opting for the standard mileage method allows you to bypass certain limits and restrictions and is simpler-- but it's often less advantageous in dollar terms.
Caution: The standard rate may understate your costs, especially if you use the car 100 percent for business, or close to that percentage.
Generally, the standard mileage method benefits taxpayers who have less expensive cars or who travel a large number of business miles.

Documentation

Keep careful records of your travel expenses and record your mileage. you can use a log book or if you're tech savvy, an app on your phone or tablet. Keeping track of the number of miles driven and the total amount you spent on the car is essential because if you don't, your tax advisor won't be able to determine which of the two options is more advantageous for you at tax time. Furthermore, the tax law requires that you keep travel expense records and that you show business versus personal use on your tax return. If you use the actual cost method for your auto deductions, you must keep receipts.
Tip: Consider using a separate credit card for business, to simplify your recordkeeping.
Tip: You can also deduct the interest you pay to finance a business-use car if you're self-employed.
Note: Self-employed individuals and employees who use their cars for business can deduct auto expenses if they either (1) don't get reimbursed, or (2) are reimbursed under an employer's "non-accountable" reimbursement plan. In the case of employees, expenses are deductible to the extent that auto expenses (together with other "miscellaneous itemized deductions") exceed two percent of adjusted gross income.

Apps for Tracking Business Mileage

There are a number of phone applications (apps) that could help you track those pesky business miles. Most of these apps are useful for tracking and reporting expenses, mileage and billable time. They use GPS to track mileage, allow you to track receipts, choose the mileage type (Business, Charitable, Medical, Moving, Personal), and produce formatted reports (IRS compliant HTML and CSV tax return reports) that are easy to generate and share with your CPA, EA, or tax advisor. Here are three popular apps that help you track your business mileage: 1. TripLog - Mileage Log Tracker Works with: Android and iPhone What it does: Tracks vehicle mileage and locations using GPS Useful Features:
  • Automatic start when plugged into power or connected to a Bluetooth device and driving more than five mph
  • Reads your vehicle's odometer from OBD-II scan tools
  • Syncs data between the web service and multiple mobile devices
  • Supports commercial trucks including per diem allowance, state-by-state mileage for IFTA fuel tax reports, and DEF fuel purchases and gas mileage
2. Track My Mileage Works with: Android and iPhone What it does: Keeps track of mileage for business or personal use Useful Features:
  • Provides mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating your automobile
  • Allows you to group your trips by client
  • Tracks multiple drivers and vehicles tracking
  • Localized and translated into more than 20 languages
3. BizXpenseTracker Works with: iPhone and iPad What it does: Tracks mileage, as well as expenses and billable time Useful Features:
  • Allows you to choose which way you want to track your mileage
  • Remembers Frequent trips
  • Creates reports in PDF format or CSV for importing into Excel
  • Ability to email your reports and photo receipts

Questions?

Call today and find out which deduction method is best for your business-use car. Go to top

Special Tax Relief: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma & Maria

Key tax relief provisions are now available for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. This tax relief applies to individuals and businesses anywhere in Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as parts of Texas. A key component of this tax relief is that it postpones various tax deadlines. For example, individuals and businesses will have until January 31, 2018, to file any returns and pay any taxes due. Those eligible for the extra time include:
  • Individual filers whose tax-filing extension runs out on October 16, 2017. Because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief.
  • Business filers, such as calendar-year partnerships, whose extensions ran out on September 15, 2017.
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments due on September 15, 2017 and January 16, 2018.
  • Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due on October 31, 2017.
  • Calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out on November 15, 2017.
A variety of other returns, payments and tax-related actions also qualify for additional time. Please call the office if you have any questions about this and other tax relief offered by the IRS since these hurricanes began affecting the US mainland and its territories, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In addition to extra time to file and pay, the IRS offers other special assistance to disaster-area taxpayers such as:
  • Special relief helps employer-sponsored leave-based donation programs aid hurricane victims. Under these programs, employees may forgo their vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for cash payments the employer makes, before Jan. 1, 2019, to charities providing relief. Donated leave is not included in the employee's income, and employers may deduct these cash payments to charity as a business expense.
  • 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to hurricane victims and members of their families. Under this broad-based relief, a retirement plan can allow a hurricane victim to take a hardship distribution or borrow up to the specified statutory limits from the victim’s retirement plan. It also means that a person who lives outside the disaster area can take out a retirement plan loan or hardship distribution and use it to assist a son, daughter, parent, grandparent or dependent who lived or worked in the disaster area. Hardship withdrawals must be made by Jan. 31, 2018.
  • The IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due during the first 15 days of the disaster period. Check out the disaster relief page for the time periods that apply to each jurisdiction.
  • Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year) or the return for the prior year (2016). If you need assistance or have any questions about disaster-related losses, please contact the office.
  • The IRS is waiving the usual fees and expediting requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for disaster area taxpayers. This relief can be especially helpful to anyone whose copies of these documents were lost or destroyed by the hurricane.
  • If disaster-area taxpayers are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter, they should be sure to explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.
Help is just a phone call away. Don't hesitate to call if you would like more information, additional details, or have any questions about tax relief provisions for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Go to top

Reporting Gambling Income and Losses

If you gamble, these tax tips can help you at tax time next year: Here's what you need to know about figuring gambling income and loss. 1. Gambling income. Income from gambling includes winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It also includes cash and the fair market value of prizes you receive, such as cars and trips and you must report them on your tax return 2. Payer tax form. If you win, the payer may send you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. This form reports the amount of your winnings to both you and the IRS. The payer issues the form depending on the type of game you played, the amount of winnings, and other factors. You'll also receive a Form W-2G if the payer withholds federal income tax from your winnings. 3. How to report winnings. You must report all your gambling winnings as income on your federal income tax return. This is true even if you do not receive a Form W-2G. If you're a casual gambler, report your winnings on the "Other Income" line of your Form 1040, U. S. Individual Income Tax Return. 4. How to deduct losses. You may deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is limited to the amount of your winnings. You must report your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your winnings by your losses and report the difference. 5. Keep gambling receipts. You must keep accurate records of your gambling activity. This includes items such as receipts, tickets or statements. You should also keep a diary or log of your gambling activity. Your records should show your winnings separately from your losses. If you have questions about gambling income and losses, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Tips for Hobbies that Earn Income

Millions of people enjoy hobbies such as stamp or coin collecting, craft making, and horse breeding, but the IRS may also consider them a source of income. As such, if you engage in a hobby that provides a source of income, you must report that income on your tax return; however, taxpayers (especially business owners) should be aware that the way income from hobbies is reported is different from how you report income from a business. For example, there are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are five basic tax tips you should know if you get income from your hobby: Business versus Hobby. There are nine factors to consider to determine if you are conducting business or participating in a hobby. Make sure to base your decision on all the facts and circumstances of your situation. To learn more about these nine factors, please call. Allowable Hobby Deductions. You may be able to deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is helpful or appropriate. Don't hesitate to call if you need more information about these rules. Limits on Expenses. As a general rule, you can only deduct your hobby expenses up to the amount of your hobby income. If your expenses are more than your income, you have a loss from the activity. You can't deduct that loss from your other income. How to Deduct Expenses. You must itemize deductions on your tax return in order to deduct hobby expenses. Your costs may fall into three types of expenses. Special rules apply to each type. Use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions to report these types of expenses. Use a tax professional. Hobby rules can be complex, but using a tax professional makes filing your tax return easier. If you need have any questions about reporting income from a hobby, please call. Go to top

Small Business Tax Tips: Health Care Tax Credit

As a small employer, you may be eligible for a tax credit that lets you keep more of your hard-earned money. It's called the small business health care tax credit, and it benefits employers that:
  • offer coverage through the small business health options program, also known as the SHOP Marketplace
  • have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees
  • pay an average wage of less than $50,000 a year ($52,400 in 2017 as adjusted for inflation)
  • pay at least half of employee health insurance premiums
Here are five facts about this credit:
  • The maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid for small business employers and 35 percent of premiums paid for small tax-exempt employers.
  • To be eligible for the credit, you must pay premiums on behalf of employees enrolled in a qualified health plan offered through a Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace, or qualify for an exception to this requirement.
  • The credit is available to eligible employers for two consecutive taxable years beginning in 2014 or later. You may be able to amend prior year tax returns to claim the credit for tax years 2010 through 2013 in addition to claiming this credit for those two consecutive years.
  • You can carry the credit back or forward to other tax years if you do not owe tax during the year.
  • You may get both a credit and a deduction for employee premium payments. Since the amount of your health insurance premium payments will be more than the total credit, if you are eligible, you can still claim a business expense deduction for the premiums in excess of the credit.
Contact the office today if you'd like more information about the small business health care tax credit. Go to top

Understanding CP2000 Notices

The CP2000 is a notice commonly mailed to taxpayers through the United States Postal Service. It is generated by the IRS Automated Underreporter Program when income reported from third-party sources such as an employer does not match the income reported on the tax return.

What to do if you Receive a CP2000 Notice:

The CP2000 is not a tax bill, it merely informs you about the information the IRS has received and how it affects your tax; however, it is important to pay attention to what your CP2000 Notice states because interest accrues on your unpaid balance until you pay it in full. If you cannot pay the full amount that you owe, then you can set up a payment plan with the IRS. If you receive a CP2000 Notice in the mail complete the response form. If your notice doesn't have a response form, then follow the notice instructions. If the new information is wrong, then check the notice response form for instructions on what to do next. You also may want to contact whoever reported the information and ask them to correct it.
Note: If the information is wrong because someone else is using your name and social security number please call the IRS and let them know. You also can the link on the IRS Identity theft information webpage to find out more about what you can do.

Do I need to amend my return?

If the information displayed in the CP2000 notice is correct, you don't need to amend your return unless you have additional income, credits or expenses to report. If you agree with our notice, follow the instructions to sign the response page and return it to the IRS in the envelope provided. If you have additional income, credits or expenses to report, you may want to complete and submit a Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. If you need assistance with this, please call the office.

How to Avoid Receiving a CP2000 Notice:

  • keep accurate and detailed records
  • wait until you receive all of your income statements before filing your tax return
  • check the records you receive from your employer, mortgage company, bank, or other sources of income (W-2s, 1098s, 1099s, etc.) to make sure they are correct
  • include all your income on your tax return including that from a second job or fees derived from the sharing economy (e.g. renting a spare room out on Airbnb)
  • follow the instructions on how to report income, expenses and deductions
  • file an amended tax return for any information you receive after you've filed your return
  • Use a professional tax preparer who will help you avoid mistakes and find credits and deductions you may qualify for.

Beware of Fake IRS Tax Bill Notices

Taxpayers and tax professionals should be on guard against fake emails purporting to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. Generally, the scam involves an email notice that is sent electronically--even though the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or through social media platform. The fake CP2000 notice is sent as an attachment. Don't hesitate to contact the office if you have any questions about IRS notices or letters you have received in the mail or otherwise. Go to top

Using QuickBooks' Income Tracker

You can get an enormous amount of useful information from QuickBooks' reports, especially if you customize them to isolate the precise data you want. Reports included with the software range from the very simple, like Open Invoices, to output that's exceptionally complex, like Trial Balance and Profit & Loss. Warning: Standard financial reports like Trial Balance are easy to run in QuickBooks, but very difficult to understand and analyze. You should, though, be aware of what they're telling you at least once a quarter - even once a month in some cases. Please call if you need help with this. Sometimes, especially first thing in the morning as you're planning your day, you just want to cut to the chase and get a quick overview of your company's finances. That's where QuickBooks' Income Tracker comes in. It not only provides that overview, but it also contains links to related screens where you can do the work that's needed there.

A Simple Layout

Click the Income Tracker link in the toolbar to open the tool's main screen. If you've been using QuickBooks for a while, you'll see a framework like this with your own company's data already filled in. Figure 1: QuickBooks Income Tracker displays both summaries of income types and the specific transactions that contribute to those totals. Look first at the top of the screen. You'll see six horizontal bars, each of which represents groups of transactions that either require immediate attention or will at some point in the future. Besides identifying the type of transaction, each block displays the number of transactions involved and their total dollar amount. They are:
  • Estimates - estimates that have been created and shared with customers, but haven't yet turned into sales
  • Sales Orders - orders that have been entered but have been neither fulfilled nor converted to invoices
  • Time & Expenses - hours that have been recorded for customers but not yet invoiced
  • Open Invoices - invoices that have been created and sent to customers, but no payments have been received
  • Overdue - open invoices that have passed their due dates
  • Paid Last 30 Days - payments that have been received within the last 30 days

Modifying the View

Click on any of the colored bars, and the list of transactions below will change to include only those that meet that particular criteria. To get back to the default display of all transactions, click the Clear/Show All link in the upper right of the screen. QuickBooks also lets you display a user-defined subset of the transactions. Click on one of the four drop-down lists above the transaction grid itself to change the view of:
  • Customer: Job - choose just one from the complete list
  • Type - Sales Orders, Invoices, Received Payments, etc.
  • Status - All, Open, Overdue, or Paid
  • Date - multiple ranges available
You can also modify the toolbar if your company doesn't use all the sales forms/transaction types supported. To do so, click the gear icon in the far upper right of the screen and click in the boxes in front of Estimates, Sales Orders and/or Time & Expenses to remove them.

Taking Action

QuickBooks' Income Tracker provides a great way to get a quick look at your finances. But it also serves as a launching pad for related activities. Figure 2: Click the down arrow in the Action column to take care of tasks related to that transaction. Highlight a transaction by clicking in the row, then click the down arrow at the end of the row in the Action column. The options that appear there depend on the type of transaction you selected. Choose a Sales Order, for example, and you can Convert to Invoice, Print Row, or Email Row. Options for an invoice are Receive Payment, Print Row, or Email Row. As mentioned previously, QuickBooks offers numerous reports that can give you more insight about your accounts receivable. If you understand the software's robust customization tools, you can create reports about your income that will answer questions you may have. If you're unsure of what to do, please contact the office for assistance. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for October 2017

October 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during September, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

October 16

Individuals - If you have an automatic 6-month extension to file your income tax return for 2016, file Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. Electing Large Partnerships - File a 2016 calendar year return (Form 1065-B). This due date applies only if you timely requested a 6-month extension of time to file the return. Employers Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September. Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

October 31

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File form 941 for the third quarter of 2017. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until November 13 to file the return. Certain Small Employers - Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2017 but less than $2,500 for the third quarter. Employers - Federal Unemployment Tax. Deposit the tax owed through September if more than $500. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

September 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


The Sharing Economy and your Taxes

Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Etsy, Rover, TaskRabbit. If you've used any of these services--or provided services for them to others--you're a member of the sharing economy. If you've only used these services (and not provided them), then there's no need to worry about the tax implications but if you've rented out a spare room in your house through a company like Uber or Airbnb then you're probably collecting a fee--a portion of which goes to the provider (in this example, Airbnb) and a portion that you keep for providing the service. But whether it's your full-time gig or a part-time job to make some extra cash, you need to be aware of the tax consequences. Millennials are the number one users of the sharing economy but Gen X and Boomers use it too; and a recent PWC study found that 24 percent of boomers, age 55 and older, are also providers. While many people are looking to earn a bit of extra income, some dive into it full-time hoping they can make a living, and still, others simply enjoy meeting new people or providing a service that helps people. What most people don't realize is that this extra cash could impact their taxable income--especially if they have a full-time job with an employer. In other words, that extra income might turn into a tax liability once you figure out your tax bill. To avoid surprises at tax time, it's more important than ever to be proactive in understanding the tax implications of your new sharing economy gig and seek the advice of a competent tax professional.
Tip: If you have a job with an employer make sure your withholding reflects any extra income derived from your side gig (e.g. boarding pets at your home through Rover or driving for a ride-share company like Uber on weekends). Use Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, to make any adjustments and submit it to your employer who will use it to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay.

New Business Owner

While you may not necessarily think of yourself as a newly self-employed business owner, the IRS does. So, even though you work through a company like Airbnb or Rover, you are considered a business owner and are responsible for your own taxes (including paying estimated taxes if you need to). It's up to you to keep track of income and expenses--and of course, to keep good records that substantiate your income and expenses (more on this below).
Note:If you receive income from a sharing economy activity, it's generally taxable even if you don't receive a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions, Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or some other income statement.
And now, for the good news. As a business owner, you are entitled to certain deductions (subject to special rules and limits) that you cannot take as an employee. Deductions reduce the amount of rental income that is subject to tax. You might also be able to deduct expenses directly related to enhancements made exclusively for the comfort of your guests. For instance, if you rent out a room in your apartment through Airbnb, amounts you spend on window treatments, linens, or even a bed, could be deductible.

Pitfalls: It's more complicated than it seems

At first glance renting out a spare room through Airbnb or pet sitting through Rover seems like an easy thing to do, but as with most things, it's more complicated than it seems and you'll need to keep an eye out for the following pitfalls:
    • Insurance requirements
    • Business license registration (state or municipal)
    • Room and lodging, or tourist taxes
Many municipalities charge room, occupancy, or tourist taxes on the amount of rental paid for short term stays (less than 30 days). Noncompliance may result in penalties, fees, and payment of back taxes owed.
    • Failure to set aside money for taxes and/or estimated tax payments
Estimated tax payments apply toward both income tax and self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare). If you don't pay enough tax, through either withholding or estimated tax (or a combination of both) you may have to pay a penalty. Estimated tax payments are due quarterly. The payment of estimated tax for the income for the first quarter of the calendar year (that is, January through March) is due on April 15. Payments for subsequent quarters are due on June 15, September 15 and January 15. If you don't pay enough by these dates you may be charged a penalty even if you're due a refund when you file your tax return.
Tip: If you also work as an employee, you can often avoid needing to make estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from your paycheck.
    • Not receiving Forms 1099-MISC or 1099-K from a company you provide services for
As a sole proprietor, you may receive a Form 1099-MISC (employees receive a Form W-2) or a 1099-K. Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions, is an information return that reports the gross amount of reportable payment card and third party network transactions for the calendar year to you and the IRS. If you receive a Form 1099-K, you should retain it and use the information reported on the Form 1099-K in conjunction with your other tax records to determine your correct tax.
    • Renting out a home for more than two weeks
If you rent your home out for 15 days or more during a calendar year and you receive rental income for the use of a house or an apartment, including a vacation home, that rental income must be reported on your return in most cases. You may deduct certain expenses such as mortgage interest, real estate taxes, maintenance, utilities, and insurance and depreciation, that reduce the amount of rental income that is subject to tax. If you use the dwelling unit for both rental and personal purposes, you generally must divide your total expenses between the rental use and the personal use based on the number of days used for each purpose. You won't be able to deduct your rental expense in excess of the gross rental income limitation.
Tip: Generally, if you rent out your home for less than 15 days, then you do not need to report any of the rental income and you don't deduct any expenses as rental expenses.

Recordkeeping

It's important to keep good records and to choose a recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses. The type of records you need to keep for federal tax purposes depends on what kind of business you operate; however, at a minimum, your recordkeeping system should include a summary of your business transactions (i.e. income and expenses) using a cash basis of accounting. Your records must also show your gross income, as well as your deductions and credits.

Tax Rules are Complicated: Don't get Caught Short

If you have any questions or would like more information about the sharing economy and your taxes, please contact the office. Go to top

Scam Alerts: Hurricane Charities and Ransomware

While The IRS, state tax agencies and numerous people in the tax and accounting industry are working together to warn tax professionals and their clients about phishing scams, they are still all too common. Here's what you need to know about the two most recent scams: fake charities that take advantage of people's generosity during times of natural disasters and IRS/FBI-themed ransomware.

Fake Charity Scams Relating to Hurricane Harvey

With Houston still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, many people are wondering how they can help. One of the best ways to do this is by donating to a charity that helps victims affected by natural disasters. Unfortunately, however, due to the prevalence of tax scams, taxpayers need to make sure the organization they donate to is not a fake charity set up by unscrupulous criminals looking to make a fast buck or get people's personal information. How the Fake Charity Scam Works These types of fraudulent schemes usually involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations. Criminals typically send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources. What to Watch out for Follow these tips if you want to make a disaster-related charitable donation but avoid falling victim to scam artists:
  • Donate to recognized charities. IRS.gov has the tools people need to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.
  • Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, "Exempt Organizations Select Check" which people can use to find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
  • Don't give out personal financial information--such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords--to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor's identity and money.
  • Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords "Report Phishing." More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords "scams and schemes." Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov as well. Don't hesitate to call the office if you have any questions or concerns or believe you have been a victim of a fake charity scam.

IRS/FBI-Themed Ransomware Scams

There's also a new phishing scheme that impersonates the IRS and the FBI as part of a ransomware scam to take computer data hostage. The scam email uses the emblems of both the IRS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It tries to entice users to select a "here" link to download a fake FBI questionnaire. Instead, the link downloads a certain type of malware called ransomware that prevents users from accessing data stored on their device unless they pay money to the scammers. What to do if you are a Victim of a Ransomeware Scam Do not pay a ransom. Paying it further encourages the criminals, and frequently the scammers won't provide the decryption key even after a ransom is paid. Victims should immediately report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.IC3.gov). Forward any IRS-themed scams to phishing@irs.gov. For more information about IRS Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts visit the IRS website People should stay vigilant against email scams that try to impersonate the IRS and other agencies that try to lure you into clicking a link or opening an attachment. As a reminder, the IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. If you believe you've been a victim of a ransomware scam or any other IRS-related scam, please call the office for assistance. Go to top

SIMPLE IRA Plans for Small Business

Of all the retirement plans available to small business owners, the SIMPLE IRA plan (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees) is the easiest to set up and the least expensive to manage. The catch is that you'll need to set it up by October 1st. Here's what you need to know.

What is a SIMPLE IRA Plan?

SIMPLE IRA Plans are intended to encourage small business employers to offer retirement coverage to their employees. Self-employed business owners are able to contribute both as employee and employer, with both contributions made from self-employment earnings. In addition, if living expenses are covered by your day job (or your spouse's job), you would be free to put all of your sideline earnings, up to the ceiling, into SIMPLE IRA plan retirement investments.

How does a SIMPLE IRA Plan Work?

A SIMPLE IRA plan is easier to set up and operate than most other plans in that contributions go into an IRA you set up. Requirements for reporting to the IRS and other agencies are minimal as well. Your plan's custodian, typically an investment institution, has the reporting duties and the process for figuring the deductible contribution is a bit easier than with other plans. SIMPLE IRA plans calculate contributions in two steps:
1. Employee out-of-salary contribution The limit on this "elective deferral" is $12,500 in 2017, after which it can rise further with the cost of living. Catch-up. Owner-employees age 50 or older can make an additional $3,000 deductible "catch-up" contribution (for a total of $15,500) as an employee in 2017. 2. Employer "matching" contribution The employer match equals a maximum of three percent of employee's earnings.
Example An owner-employee age 50 or over in 2017 with self-employment earnings of $40,000 could contribute and deduct $12,500 as employee plus an additional $3,000 employee catch up contribution, plus a $1,200 (3 percent of $40,000) employer match, for a total of $16,700.

Are there any Downsides to SIMPLE IRA Plans?

Because investments are through an IRA you must work through a financial institution acting, which acts as the trustee or custodian. As such, you are not in direct control and will generally have fewer investment options than if you were your own trustee, as is the case with a 401(k). You also cannot set up the SIMPLE IRA plan after the calendar year ends and still be able to take advantage of the tax benefits on that year's tax return, as is allowed with Simplified Employee Pension Plans, or SEPs. Generally, to make a SIMPLE IRA plan effective for a year, it must be set up by October 1 of that year. A later date is allowed only when the business is started after October 1 and the SIMPLE IRA plan must be set up as soon as it is administratively feasible. Furthermore, once self-employment earnings become significant however, other retirement plans may be more advantageous than a SIMPLE IRA retirement plan.
Example If you are under 50 with $50,000 of self-employment earnings in 2017, you could contribute $12,500 as employee to your SIMPLE IRA plan plus an additional 3 percent of $50,000 as an employer contribution, for a total of $14,000. In contrast, a 401(k) plan would allow a $31,000 contribution.With $100,000 of earnings, the total for a SIMPLE IRA Plan would be $15,500 and $43,500 for a 401(k).
If the SIMPLE IRA plan is set up for a sideline business and you're already vested in a 401(k) in another business or as an employee the total amount you can put into the SIMPLE IRA plan and the 401(k) combined (in 2017) can't be more than $18,000 or $23,500 if catch-up contributions are made to the 401(k) by someone age 50 or over. So, someone under age 50 who puts $9,000 in her 401(k) can't put more than $9,000 in her SIMPLE IRA plan for 2017. The same limit applies if you have a SIMPLE IRA plan while also contributing as an employee to a 403(b) annuity (typically for government employees and teachers in public and private schools).

How to Get Started Setting up a SIMPLE IRA Plan

You can set up a SIMPLE IRA plan account on your own; however, most people turn to financial institutions. SIMPLE IRA Plans are offered by the same financial institutions that offer any other IRAs and 401(k) plans. You can expect the institution to give you a plan document and an adoption agreement. In the adoption agreement, you will choose an "effective date," which is the start date for payments out of salary or business earnings. Again, that date can't be later than October 1 of the year you adopt the plan, except for a business formed after October 1. Another key document is the Salary Reduction Agreement, which briefly describes how money goes into your SIMPLE IRA plan. You need such an agreement even if you pay yourself business profits rather than salary. Printed guidance on operating the SIMPLE IRA plan may also be provided. You will also be establishing a SIMPLE IRA plan account for yourself as participant.

Ready to Explore Retirement Plan Options for your Small Business?

SIMPLE IRA Plans are an excellent choice for home-based businesses and ideal for full-time employees or homemakers who make a modest income from a sideline business and work well for small business owners who don't want to spend a lot of time and pay high administration fees associated with more complex retirement plans. If you are a business owner interested in discussing retirement plan options for your small business, don't hesitate to contact the office today. Go to top

Avoiding Penalties on Early Withdrawals from IRAs

More than half of Millennials and Gen Xers have already or are planning to, withdraw money from their retirement plans to cover unexpected expenses such as medical bills, educational expenses, or buying a house, according to a recent PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey (April 2017). Most notably, the survey also found that this trend is on the rise for both Millennials and Gen Xers, increasing 14 and 6 percent, respectively, from 2016 to 2017.

Background

When retirement plans such as the 401(k) were introduced, company pensions were still the norm and this "new" retirement savings vehicle was meant to be a supplement to the pension. Fast forward to today, however, and the retirement landscape has changed dramatically. Very few companies offer pensions anymore and most people rely entirely on whatever savings they've accumulated in their retirement account, along with social security) to get them through their golden years. In fact, for many people, retirement accounts are their most significant source of savings. Because retirement plans such as the 401(k), tax-sheltered annuity plans under section 403(b) for employees of public schools or tax-exempt organizations, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) were created to help you save money for your retirement years, withdrawals before retirement age (59 1/2) are discouraged. As such, the IRS imposes a penalty of 10 percent for early withdrawals taken from qualified retirement plans before age 59 1/2.

Minimizing Early Withdrawal Penalties

While you should always think carefully about taking money out of your retirement plan before you've reached retirement age, there may be times when you need access to those funds. The downside is that you'll be faced with an IRS penalty on the withdrawal unless you meet one of the exceptions listed below. For instance, if you withdraw cash from your IRA to pay off credit card debt you will be liable for the 10 percent penalty when you file your tax return. Furthermore, that money is also considered taxable income by the IRS. In other words, you don't want to get into the habit of treating your retirement fund like a cash cow but instead, should focus on building cash reserves in an emergency fund. That being said, if an early withdrawal is unavoidable because you are suddenly unemployed, disabled, or have outstanding medical expenses, IRS provisions allow a number of exceptions that may be used to minimize or avoid the tax penalty.
  1. Beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner. If you are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner, you do not have to pay the 10 percent penalty on distributions taken before age 59 1/2 unless you inherit a traditional IRA from your deceased spouse and elect to treat it as your own. In this case, any distribution you later receive before you reach age 59 1/2 may be subject to the 10 percent additional tax.
  2. Totally and permanently disabled. Distributions made because you are totally and permanently disabled are exempt from the early withdrawal penalty. You are considered disabled if you can furnish proof that you cannot do any substantial gainful activity because of your physical or mental condition. A physician must determine that your condition can be expected to result in death or to be of long, continued, and indefinite duration.
  3. Distributions for qualified higher education expenses. Distributions for qualified higher education expenses are also exempt, provided they are not paid through tax-free distributions from a Coverdell education savings account, scholarships and fellowships, Pell grants, employer-provided educational assistance, and Veterans' educational assistance. Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance of a student at an eligible educational institution, as well as expenses incurred by special needs students in connection with their enrollment or attendance. If the individual is at least a half-time student, room and board are qualified higher education expenses. This exception applies to expenses incurred by you, your spouse, children and grandchildren.
  4. Distributions due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan. This exception applies if the IRS takes money directly out of your 401(k) plan to satisfy an IRS levy (tax debt).
  5. Distributions that are not more than the cost of your medical insurance. Even if you are under age 59 1/2, you may not have to pay the 10 percent additional tax on distributions during the year that is not more than the amount you paid during the year for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You will not have to pay the tax on these amounts if all of the following conditions apply: you lost your job, you received unemployment compensation paid under any federal or state law for 12 consecutive weeks because you lost your job, you receive the distributions during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following year, you receive the distributions no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.
  6. Distributions to qualified reservists. Generally, these are distributions made to individuals called to active duty after September 11, 2001, for a period greater than 179 days or for an indefinite period because you are a member of a reserve component such as the Army National Guard. Distributions taken during the active duty period are not subject to the 10 percent penalty.
  7. Distributions in the form of an annuity. You can take the money as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments over your estimated lifespan or the joint lives of you and your designated beneficiary. These payments must be made at least annually and payments are based on IRS life expectancy tables. If payments are from a qualified employee plan, they must begin after you have left the job. The payments must be made at least once each year until age 59 1/2, or for five years, whichever period is longer.
  8. Medical expenses. If you have out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can withdraw funds from a retirement account to pay those expenses without paying a penalty.
    Example: If you had an adjusted gross income of $100,000 for tax year 2017 and medical expenses of $12,500, you could withdraw as much as $2,500 from your pension or IRA without incurring the 10 percent penalty tax. You do not have to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this exception.
  9. Buy, build, or rebuild a first home. An IRA distribution used to buy, build, or rebuild a first home also escapes the penalty; however, you need to understand the government's definition of a "first time" home buyer. In this case, it's defined as someone who hasn't owned a home for the last two years prior to the date of the new acquisition. You could have owned five prior houses, but if you haven't owned one in at least two years, you qualify. The first-time homeowner can be yourself, your spouse, your or your spouse's child or grandchild, parent or another relative. The "date of acquisition" is the day you sign the contract for the purchase of an existing house or the day construction of your new principal residence begins. The amount withdrawn for the purchase of a home must be used within 120 days of withdrawal and the maximum lifetime withdrawal exemption is $10,000. If both you and your spouse are first-time home buyers, each of you can receive distributions up to $10,000 for a first home without having to pay the 10 percent penalty.

Questions about Early Withdrawals?

Before withdrawing funds from a retirement account please call the office and speak to a tax professional. While you may be able to minimize or avoid the 10 percent penalty tax using one of the exceptions listed above, remember that you are still liable for any regular income tax that's owed on the funds that you've withdrawn--and you may be liable for more tax than you realize when you file your tax return next spring. Go to top

States Require Online Retailers to Collect Sales Tax

From declining sales at local retail establishments to brick and mortar store closings, almost everyone would agree that the rise of Internet sales has transformed the retail landscape. One consequence of this uptick in online sales is lost revenues in states that collect sales (or use) tax. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state revenues declined by $17.2 billion due to lost sales taxes in 2016 alone. As such, states, which derive as much as one-third of their revenues from sales and use taxes, are struggling to find ways to harness this lost revenue. At least two states, North Dakota and Colorado, have turned to the US Supreme Court for relief sparking other states to take action and establish legislation governing payment of sales and use tax.

"Remote Sellers" and the "Physical Presence" Test

Referred to as "remote sales" (e-commerce to most people) retail transactions include catalog and Internet sales where the seller has no "physical presence" in the state where consumers are purchasing the goods. In the early days of Internet sales, several US Supreme Court cases (culminating with Quill v. North Dakota, 1992) ruled that sales tax could not be collected where the seller did not have a physical presence (property or employees, for example). While states do require residents to report sales tax owed on purchases made online or in another state, it is rarely enforced, resulting in lost revenue. More recently, however, a 2015 US Supreme Court opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, while a major victory for online retailers, suggested that it might be time for the Supreme Court to take another look at the physical presence test. For legal buffs, here's what the lawsuit entailed according to SCOTUSblog:
A lawsuit by a trade association of retailers, alleging that a Colorado law requiring retailers that do not collect sales or use taxes to notify any Colorado customer of the state's tax requirement and to report tax-related information to those customers and the Colorado Department of Revenue violates the federal and state constitutions, is not barred by the Tax Injunction Act.
And here is the plain language version:
Colorado requires internet retailers like Amazon.com to send it reports about their customers in Colorado. Colorado wants to use those reports to force those customers to pay taxes when they buy online. The district court enjoined the statute, thinking it probably is unconstitutional. Without deciding whether the statute is valid, the Court said that the injunction can stand while the parties litigate about the statute itself.

State Legislative Updates

At the state level, in the years since the Brohl opinion was issued, states have enacted or are planning to enact various regulations governing payment of sales and use tax. Several are already in place (or will be soon) and a few are proposed and/or facing court challenges. These states include Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.

Federal Initiatives

Efforts to require online retailers to collect sales taxes at the federal level have stalled despite approval on both sides of the aisle but at least two new pieces of legislation have been introduced: The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 and the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017, which attempts to codify what states may and may not define as "physical presence." The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers ("remote sellers"), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction--exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws in one of two ways: A state can join the twenty-four states that have already voluntarily adopted the simplification measures of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA). Alternatively, states can meet essentially five simplification mandates listed in the bill.

Amazon and other Online Retailers

To further complicate matters, as online retail giants such as Amazon expand warehouse and operational facilities to other states, they are faced with state sales tax collection requirements because they now meet the physical test. In the "good old days" anyone could order online and escape paying state sales tax. Those days are almost over, however. For example, starting April 1, 2017, Amazon began collecting sales taxes in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine and New Mexico. While they operate in five additional states, four of them--Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon--do not have sales tax and the fifth, Alaska, has municipal sales taxes but not statewide sales tax. Currently, items sold by Amazon.com LLC, or its subsidiaries, and shipped to destinations are subject to tax in 46 states.

State and Local Sales Taxes are Complicated

If you're an online retailer with questions about sales tax or are simply wondering whether you should collect sales tax from customers or not--given that legislation could either be rejected by the courts or upheld, don't hesitate to call the office today and speak to a tax and accounting professional you can trust. Go to top

Don't Wait to File an Extended Return

If you filed for an extension of time to file your 2016 federal tax return and you also chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit made to your coverage provider, it's important you file your return sooner rather than later. Here are four things you should know: 1. If you received a six-month extension of time to file, you do not need to wait until the October 16, 2017, due date to file your return and reconcile your advance payments. You can--and should--file as soon as you have all the necessary documentation. 2. You must file to ensure you can continue having advance credit payments paid on your behalf in future years. If you do not file and reconcile your 2016 advance payments of the premium tax credit by the Marketplace's fall re-enrollment period--even if you filed for an extension--you may not have your eligibility for advance payments of the PTC in 2018 determined for a period of time after you have filed your tax return with Form 8962. 3. Advance payments of the premium tax credit are reviewed in the fall by the Health Insurance Marketplace for the next calendar year as part of their annual re-enrollment and income verification process. 4. Use Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit, to reconcile any advance credit payments made on your behalf and to maintain your eligibility for future premium assistance. Help is just a phone call away. If you have any questions about filing an extended return, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Harvey

The IRS offers tax relief to affected taxpayers (individuals and businesses) in any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance and is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding and is based on local damage assessments. Currently, the following Texas counties are eligible for relief: Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, and Wharton. Taxpayers in localities added later to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on August 23, 2017. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until January 31, 2018, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This includes the September 15, 2017, and January 16, 2018, deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also includes 2016 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until October 16, 2017. The IRS noted, however, that because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief. A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected including the October 31 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after August 23 and before September 7, if the deposits are made by September 7, 2017. If you believe this applies to your business, please call the office as soon as possible. The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in a federally declared disaster area. As such, taxpayers do need to contact the IRS to get this relief.
Note: If an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.
In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area should contact the IRS at 866-562-5227.
Note: This also includes workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.
Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year) or the return for the prior year (2016). Need Help? If you've been affected by a natural disaster and have any questions or need additional information about tax relief, please call. Go to top

It's Time for a Premium Tax Credit Checkup

If you or anyone in your family receive advance payments of the premium tax credit, now is a good time to check on whether you need to adjust your premium assistance. Because advance payments are paid directly to your insurance company (thereby lowering out-of-pocket cost for your health insurance premiums), changes to your income or family size may affect your credit. Therefore, you should report changes that have occurred since the time that you signed up for your health insurance plan. Changes in circumstances include any of the following and should be reported to your Marketplace when they happen:
  • Increases or decreases in your household income including, lump sum payments; for example, lump sum payment of Social Security benefits
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Other changes affecting the composition of your tax family
  • Gaining or losing eligibility for government sponsored or employer-sponsored health care coverage
  • Moving to a different address
Reporting the changes when they happen helps you to avoid getting too much or too little advance payment of the premium tax credit. Getting too much may mean that you owe additional money or receive a smaller refund when you file your taxes. Getting too little could mean missing out on premium assistance that reduces your out-of-pocket monthly premiums. Changes in circumstances also may qualify you for a special enrollment period to change or get insurance through the Marketplace. In most cases, if you qualify for the special enrollment period, you generally have 60 days to enroll following the change in circumstances. Information about special enrollment can be found by visiting HealthCare.gov. You can use the Premium Tax Credit Change Estimator to help you estimate how your premium tax credit will change if your income or family size changes during the year; however, this estimator tool does not report changes in circumstances to your Marketplace. To report changes and to adjust the amount of your advance payments of the premium tax credit you must contact your Health Insurance Marketplace. Questions? Please call if you have any questions about the Premium Tax Credit. Go to top

A Name Change Could Affect your Taxes

Did you know that a name change could impact your taxes? Here's what you need to know: 1. Report Name Changes. Did you get married and are now using your new spouse's last name or hyphenate your last name? Did you divorce and go back to using your former last name? In either case, you should notify the SSA of your name change. That way, your new name on your IRS records will match up with your SSA records. A mismatch could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund. 2. Make Dependent's Name Change. Notify the SSA if your dependent had a name change. For example, this could apply if you adopted a child and the child's last name changed. If you adopted a child who does not have a Social Security number, you may use an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on your tax return. An ATIN is a temporary number. You can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. 3. Get a New Card. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, to notify SSA of your name change. You can get the form onSSA.gov or call 800-772-1213 to order it. Your new card will show your new name with the same SSN you had before. 4. Report Changes in Circumstances when they happen. If you enrolled in health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace you may receive the benefit of advance payments of the premium tax credit. These are paid directly to your insurance company to lower your monthly premium. Report changes in circumstances, such as a name change, a new address and a change in your income or family size to your Marketplace when they happen throughout the year. Reporting the changes will help you avoid getting too much or too little advance payment of the premium tax credit. Please contact the office if you have any questions related to IRS requirements regarding a name change. Go to top

Seven Facts about Dependents and Exemptions

Some tax rules affect everyone who files a federal income tax return. With that in mind, here are seven facts about dependents and exemptions that taxpayers should know about. 1. Exemptions lower your income. There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. You can usually deduct $4,050 for each exemption you claim on your tax return. 2. Personal exemptions. You can usually claim an exemption for yourself. If you're married and file a joint return you can also claim one for your spouse. If you file a separate return, you can claim an exemption for your spouse only if your spouse had no gross income, is not filing a return, and was not the dependent of another taxpayer. 3. Exemptions for dependents. You can usually claim an exemption for each of your dependents. A dependent is either your child or a relative that meets certain tests. You can't claim your spouse as a dependent. In addition, you must list the Social Security number of each dependent you claim. If you don't have a social security number, special rules apply. Don't hesitate to call if this is your situation. 4. Some people don't qualify. You generally may not claim married persons as dependents if they file a joint return with their spouse. Again, there are some exceptions to this rule, so please call if you have any questions about this. 5. Dependents may have to file. People that you can claim as your dependent may have to file their own federal tax return. This depends on many things, including the amount of their income, their marital status and if they owe certain taxes. 6. No exemption on dependent's return. If you can claim a person as a dependent, that person can't claim a personal exemption on his or her own tax return. This is true even if you don't actually claim that person as a dependent on your tax return. The rule applies because you have the right to claim that person. 7. Exemption phase-out. The $4,050 per exemption is subject to income limits. This rule may reduce or eliminate the amount depending on your income. Please call if you need additional information about the exemption phase-out. Questions about dependents and exemptions? Call the office today. Go to top

What Sales Orders Are and When to Use Them

When you want to document sales that you can't (or won't) fulfill immediately, but you plan to do so in the future, you can't create an invoice just yet. This is where sales orders come in. You may never need to create a sales order for a customer. Perhaps you have a service-based business, or you never run out of inventory. Or you simply don't enter an order unless you know you have the item(s) in stock. But if you plan to use sales orders, you must first make sure QuickBooks is set up to accommodate them. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Sales & Customers. Click the Company Preferences tab to open that window. Figure 1: Before you can use sales orders, you'll need to make sure that QuickBooks is set up for them.

Sales Orders Are Required for Some Tasks

There are a few situations where you must use a sales order:
  • If you have a customer who orders very frequently, you may not want to create an invoice for absolutely every item. You could use a sales order to keep track of these multiple orders, and then send an invoice at the end of the month.
  • If you're missing one or more items that a customer wanted, you can create a sales order that includes everything, but only note the in-stock items on an invoice. The sales order will keep track of the portion of the order that wasn't fulfilled. Both forms will include the back-ordered quantity.
Warning: Working with back orders can be challenging. In fact, working with inventory-tracking itself may be problematic for you. If your business stocks enough of multiple types of items that you want to use those QuickBooks features, let us help you get started to ensure that you understand these rather complex concepts.

Creating a Sales Order

Creating sales orders in QuickBooks is actually quite simple and similar to filling out an invoice. Click the Sales Orders icon on the home page, or open the Customers menu and select Create Sales Orders. Figure 2: A sales order in QuickBooks looks much like an invoice. Click the down arrow in the field next to Customer: Job and choose the correct one. If you use Classes, select the correct one from the list that drops down, and change the Template if you've created another you'd like to use. Tip: Templates and Classes are totally optional in QuickBooks. Templates provide alternate views of forms containing different fields and perhaps a different layout. Classes are like categories. You create your own that work for your business; they can be very helpful in reports. Please call the office if you need help understanding these concepts. If the shipping address is different from the customer's main address, click the down arrow in the field next to Ship To, and either select an alternate you've created or click Add New. Make sure the Date is correct, and enter a purchase order number (P.O. No.) if appropriate. The rest of the sales order is easy. Click in the fields in the table to make your selections from drop-down lists, and enter data when needed. Pay special attention to the Tax status. If you haven't set up sales tax and need to, just call. When everything is correct, save the sales order. When you're ready to convert it to an invoice, open it and click the Create Invoice icon in the toolbar. QuickBooks will ask whether you want to create an invoice for all the items or just the ones you select. You'll be able to specify quantities, too, in the window that opens. Figure 3: When you create an invoice from a sales order, you can select all the items ordered or a subset. As you can see, sales orders are easy to fill out in QuickBooks but they involve some complex tracking. You may want to call the office to schedule a "how-to" session before you attempt them. As with most things, it's always better to understand sales orders ahead of time rather than to try to troubleshoot problems later. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for September 2017

September 11

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

September 15

Individuals - Make a payment of your 2017 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment date for estimated tax in 2017. Partnerships - File a 2016 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1. S corporations - File a 2016 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) or a substitute Schedule K-1. Electing Large Partnerships - File a 2016 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065-B) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension. Otherwise, see March 15. Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065-B) or a substitute Schedule K-1. Corporations - Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2017. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you make an estimate of your tax for the year. Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

August 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Traditional IRAs vs. Roth IRAs

Two types of IRAs are available to fund your retirement: Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. While both are subject to many of the same rules there are several important differences. It's important to understand these differences because the type of individual retirement account (IRA) you choose can significantly impact your financial future and that of your family.

Who Can Contribute to an IRA?

Any person with income from wages or self-employment can contribute to an IRA (either traditional or Roth)--including children as long as they meet the income conditions. Individuals can contribute up to $5,500 in 2017. A catch-up contribution of $1,000 is allowed for anyone over the age of 50, for a total contribution of $6,500. Contributions are also allowed for stay-at-home spouses (up to $5,500 in 2017) as long as the couple's wages or self-employment earnings total at least $11,000.
Note: You cannot contribute to a traditional IRA if you are age 70 1/2 or older even if you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) have taxable compensation. You can, however, make contributions to your Roth IRA after you reach age 70 1/2.

Income Limits

A traditional IRA does not have income limits; however, contributions to a Roth IRA might be limited based on your filing status and income. For example, in 2017, if you file a joint return with your spouse, you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your income (AGI or adjusted gross income) is more than $196,000. However, you may be able to contribute a reduced amount if your income is greater than $186,000 but less than $196,000. For income below $186,000, you may contribute up to $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or older) or your taxable compensation for the year if your compensation was less than this dollar limit. To figure the reduced amount you can contribute, use the worksheet in Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Please call if you need assistance figuring this out this amount.

Tax Treatment

Taxable Income Contributions to a traditional IRA are made pre-tax. As such, they lower your taxable income, which could enable you to take advantage of tax breaks you might not otherwise qualify for with a higher income. Contributions to Roth IRAs are made after-tax (i.e. you've already paid the tax) and do not lower your pre-tax income. Unlike a traditional IRA, however, you will owe no tax on income from withdrawals made during your retirement. Withdrawals before Age 59 1/2 Withdrawals from a traditional IRA that are made before the age of 59 1/2 are subject to an early withdrawal penalty. There are, however, several exemptions that allow you to use the funds but waive the penalty. These include: Using IRA funds to purchase your first home (up to $10,000) and using funds to offset qualified higher education expenses, health insurance premiums while unemployed, and unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 10 percent AGI. Withdrawals from Roth IRAs may be taken out penalty and tax-free before age 59 1/2 as long as they are contributions (not earnings). Withdrawals that are earnings are subject to the same 10 percent penalty tax as traditional IRAs. There is an exception for qualified first-time home-buyers: A maximum of $10,000 of Roth IRA earnings may be withdrawn penalty-free to pay for qualified first-time home-buyer expenses as long as at least five tax years have passed since your initial contribution. Withdrawals after Age 59 1/2 Once you reach age 59 1/2, you may begin taking distributions. While you are not required to take distributions at this age, you must start taking distributions by April 1 following the year in which you turn age 70 1/2 and by December 31 of later years. With a traditional IRA, any deductible contributions and earnings that are withdrawn (typically referred to as distributions when you retire) are considered taxable income. Income from Roth IRA distributions is generally tax-free and unlike a traditional IRA, there is no age requirement for distributions from a Roth IRA. Questions about IRAs? Don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Tips for Those Affected By Natural Disasters

Every year, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters affect people throughout the US. The bad news is that recovery efforts after natural disasters can be costly. For instance, when hurricanes strike they not only cause wind damage but can cause widespread flooding. Many homeowners are not covered for damage due to flooding because most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Fortunately, tax relief is available--but only if you meet certain conditions. For business owners and self-employed individuals who may owe estimated taxes, for example, the IRS typically delays filing deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area.

Deducting Casualty Losses: Tips for Homeowners

Fortunately, personal casualty losses are deductible on your tax return as long as the property is located in a federally declared disaster zone (please call the office if you are not sure). You must also meet the following four conditions:
Note: Some of the casualty loss rules for business or income property are different than the rules for property held for personal use.
1. The loss was caused by a sudden, unexplained, or unusual event.  Natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires all qualify as sudden, unexplained, or unusual events. 2. The damages were not covered by insurance. You can only claim a deduction for casualty losses that are not covered or reimbursed by your insurance company. Keep in mind that timing is important. If you submit a claim to your insurance company late in the year, then your claim might not be processed before it is time to prepare your taxes. One solution is to file for a 6-month extension on your taxes. If you have any questions about this, please call the office. 3. The dollar amount of your losses were greater than the reductions required by the IRS. To claim casualty losses on your tax forms, the IRS requires several "reductions," the first of which is referred to as the $100 loss limit and requires taxpayers to subtract $100 from the total loss amount. Next, you need to reduce the loss amount by 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Here is an example: Let's say your AGI is $35,000 and your insurance company paid for all of the losses except $5,800 that you incurred as a result of tornado damage. First, you would first subtract $100 and then reduce that amount by $3500. The amount you could deduct as a loss would be $2,200. 4. You must itemize. To claim a deduction for the loss, you must itemize your taxes. If you normally don't itemize but have a large casualty loss, you can calculate your taxes both ways to figure out which method gives you the lowest tax bill. Please call if you need help figuring out which method is best for your particular circumstances.

Two options for deducting casualty losses on your tax returns.

You can deduct the losses in the year in which they occurred or claim them for the prior year's return. For example, if you were affected by a natural disaster this year, you can claim your losses on your 2017 tax return or amend your 2016 tax return and deduct your losses. If you choose to deduct losses on your 2016 tax return, then you have one year from the date the tax return was due to file it.
Tip: Do not consider the loss of future profits or income due to the casualty as you figure your loss.

Figuring Amount of Loss

Figure the amount of your loss using the following steps:
  • Determine what your adjusted basis in the property was before the casualty occurred. For property you buy, your basis is usually its cost to you. For property you acquire in some other way, such as inheriting it or getting it as a gift, you must figure your basis in another way. Please call the office for more information.
  • Determine the decrease in fair market value (FMV) of the property as a result of the casualty. FMV is the price at which you could sell your property to a willing buyer. The decrease in FMV is the difference between the property's FMV immediately before and immediately after the casualty.
  • Subtract any insurance or other reimbursements that you received or expect to receive from the smaller of those two amounts.

Tax Relief for Small Business Owners

Individuals, as well as businesses affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding in Arkansas and Missouri with an estimated income tax payment originally due on or after April 26, 2017, and before Aug. 31, 2017, will not be subject to penalties for failure to pay estimated tax installments as long as such payments are paid on or before Aug. 31, 2017. If you have been affected by a natural disaster, please call the office immediately and receive assistance figuring out when your tax payments are due. Have you been affected by a natural disaster this year? Are you wondering if you qualify for tax relief? Help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Business Entertainment Expenses

As a business owner, you are entitled to deduct certain expenses on your tax return such as those relating to entertaining clients. Entertainment is considered any activity that provides entertainment, amusement, or recreation. It may also include meeting the personal, living, or family needs of individuals including providing meals, a hotel suite, or a car to customers or their families. A meal that you provide to a customer or client may also be considered a form of entertainment. The meal may be part of other entertainment or stand alone. Meal expenses are defined as the cost of food, beverages, taxes, and tips for the meal. To deduct an entertainment-related meal, you or your employee must be present when the food or beverages are provided, and you cannot deduct a meal as both a travel and entertainment expense.

Limits and Restrictions

Entertainment expenses are generally deductible at 50 percent. Entertainment costs, taxes, tips, cover charges, room rentals, maids, and waiters are all subject to the 50 percent limit on entertainment deductions. Entertainment expenses are also subject to certain limits and restrictions such as whether they qualify as "ordinary and necessary" and not "lavish or extravagant." They must also be directly related to or associated with, your business and you must keep detailed records substantiating your expenses (more on this below). Furthermore, the person you entertained must be a business associate; that is, someone who could reasonably be expected to be a customer or conduct business with you such as an employee, client, or professional advisor. If it is customary to entertain a business associate with his or her spouse and your spouse also attends, entertainment expenses for both spouses are deductible, thanks to something called the "closely connected rule." For more information about this topic, please contact the office.
Note: If you are an employee who is reimbursed in full by your employer different tax rules apply (e.g. you are not subject to the deduction limits).

Location must be Conducive to Business

Your Home Entertainment expenses are only deductible when they take place in a location conducive to business. A nightclub or theater is not considered a place conducive to business, but your home is. For example, if you hold a small (less than 12 people) party for clients and business associates at your home during the summer it may be deductible as long as you discussed business with your guests. The amount of time that business was discussed is not significant. Year-end parties for employees, as well as sales seminars and presentations held at your home, are generally 100 percent deductible provided costs for food and refreshments are reasonable and not lavish. Entertainment Facilities Out-of-pocket expenses for food and beverages, catering, gas, and fishing bait provided at facilities you own or are a member of such as a yacht, hunting lodge, fishing camp, swimming pool, and tennis court are deductible subject to entertainment expense limitation of 50 percent. However, you may not deduct expenses related to the depreciation and upkeep of the facility or for rent and utilities.
Note: Dues paid to country clubs, social, or golf and athletic clubs are not deductible.
Skybox If you rent a skybox or other private luxury box for more than one event at the same sports arena, you generally can't deduct more than the price of a nonluxury box seat ticket. You can, however, count each game as one event. Deduction for those seats is then subject to the 50 percent entertainment expense limit. If the cost of food and beverages are on a separate receipt, you are allowed to deduct those expenses (as long as they are reasonable) in addition to the amounts allowable for the skybox, subject of course, to the requirements and limits that apply.

Expenses must be "Directly Related" or "Associated With"

Expenses are directly related if you can show that there was more than a general expectation of gaining some business benefit, rather than simply goodwill. In addition, you must show that you conducted business during the entertainment and that the active conduct of business was your main purpose. Even if you cannot show that the entertainment was "directly related" you may still be able to deduct the expenses as long as you can prove the entertainment was "associated with" your business. To meet this test, you must have had a clear business purpose when you took on the expense, and the entertainment must directly precede or come after a substantial business discussion.

Substantiating your Expenses

Tax law requires you to keep records that will prove the business purpose and amounts of your business entertainment as well as other business expenses. The most frequent reason that the IRS disallows entertainment expenses is the failure to show the place and business purpose of an item. Therefore it is paramount that you keep excellent records. To substantiate entertainment expenses you must show the following:
  • The amount of each separate expense.
  • The date, time, place, and type of entertainment (e.g. dinner).
  • The business purpose and nature of any business discussion that took place.
  • The business relationship and the name, title, and occupation of the person or people you entertained.

Don't Miss Out

Tax law is complicated, and this article only touches on a few of the deductions for entertainment expenses you might be entitled to. If you have any questions about entertainment expenses or need assistance setting up a recordkeeping system to document your business-related activities, don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Preparing an Effective Business Plan

Whether you're starting a new company, seeking additional financing for an existing one, or analyzing a new market, a business plan is a valuable tool. Think of it as your blueprint for success. Not only will it clarify your business vision and goals, but it will also force you to gain a thorough understanding of how resources (financial and human) will be used to carry out that vision and goals. Before you begin preparing your business plan, take the time to carefully evaluate your business and personal goals as this may give you valuable insight into your specific goals and what you want to accomplish. Think about the reasons why you are starting a new business; maybe you're ready to be your own boss, or you want financial independence. Whatever the reason it is important to determine the "why." Next, you need to figure out what business is "right for you." Chances are you already have a specific business in mind but if not you might want to think about your business in terms of what technical skills and experience you have, whether you have any marketable hobbies or interests, what competition you might have, how you might market your products or services, and how much time you have to run a successful business (it may take more time than you think). Finally, you'll need to figure out how you want to get started. Most people choose one of three options: starting a business from scratch, purchasing an existing business, or operating a franchise. Each has pros and cons, and only you can decide which business fits.

Pre-Business Checklist

The final step before developing your plan is developing a pre-business checklist which might include:
  • Business legal structure
  • Accounting or bookkeeping system
  • Insurance coverage
  • Equipment or supplies
  • Compensation
  • Financing (if any)
  • Business location
  • Business name
Based on your initial answers to the items listed above, your next step is to formulate a focused, well-researched business plan that outlines your business mission and goals, how you intend to achieve your mission and goals, products or services to be provided, and a detailed analysis of your market. Last, but not least, it should include a formal financial plan.

Preparing an Effective Business Plan

Now, let's take a look at the components of an effective business plan. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline, and any plan you prepare should be adapted to your specific business with the help of a financial professional.

Introduction and Mission Statement

In the introductory section of your business plan, you should make sure you write a detailed description of your business and its goals, as well as ownership. You can also list skills and experience that you or your business partners bring to the business. And finally, include a discussion of what advantages you and your business have over your competition.

Products, Services, and Markets

In this section, you will need to describe the location and size of your business, as well as your products and/or services. You should identify your target market and customer demand for your product or service and develop a marketing plan is. You should also discuss why your product or service is unique and what type of pricing strategy you will be using.

Financial Management

This section is where you should discuss the financial aspects of your business--and where the advice of a financial professional is vital. The following financial aspects of your business should be discussed in detail:
  • Source and amount of initial equity capital.
  • Monthly operating budget for the first year.
  • Expected return on investment (ROI) and a monthly cash flow for the first year.
  • Projected income statements and balance sheets for a two-year period.
  • A discussion of your break-even point.
  • Explanation of your personal balance sheet and method of compensation.
  • Who will maintain your accounting records and how they will be kept.
  • Provide "what if" statements that address alternative approaches to any problem that may develop.

Business Operations

The Business Operations section generally includes an explanation of how the business will be managed on a day-to-day basis and discusses hiring and personnel procedures (HR), insurance and lease or rent agreements, and any other pertinent issues that could affect your business operations. In this section, you should also specify any equipment necessary to produce your product or services as well as how the product or service will be produced and delivered.

Concluding Statement

The concluding statement should summarize your business goals and objectives and express your commitment to the success of your business.

Questions?

If you have any questions about business plans or need assistance creating one, please contact the office. Go to top

Identity Theft: What to Watch out for and What to do

Tax-related identity theft typically occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Anyone can fall victim to identity theft. Here is an important reminder of how to protect yourself from identity theft, what to watch out for, and what do if your identity has been compromised: 1. Protect your Records. Do not carry your Social Security card with you, or any other documents with your Social Security Number (SSN) on them. Only provide your SSN if it is completely necessary and you know the person requesting it. Routinely change passwords for all of your Internet accounts and protect your personal information at home and protect your computers with anti-spam and anti-virus software. 2. Don't Fall for Scams. Criminals often try to impersonate your bank, credit card company, and even the IRS in order to steal your personal data. Learn to recognize and avoid those fake emails and texts. 3. Beware of Threatening Phone Calls. The IRS will never call you threatening a lawsuit or arrest, or to demand an immediate tax payment using a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. Generally, if you owe taxes, the IRS will first mail a bill to the taxpayer. Furthermore, The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. While there are certain circumstances when the IRS will visit your home or business, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called "notices ") from the IRS in the mail beforehand. The IRS will also not:
  • Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver's license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
4. Report ID Theft to Law Enforcement. If you discover that you cannot e-file your return because a tax return already was filed using your SSN, please call the office immediately for assistance. Next, you will generally need to take the following steps:
  • File your taxes by paper and pay any taxes owed.
  • File an IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian), to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account.
5. Complete an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. File IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Print out the form and mail or fax it according to the instructions. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by filing on paper. 6. IRS Notices and Letters. If the IRS identifies a suspicious tax return with your social security number on it, they may send you a letter asking you to verify your identity and will provide instructions on how to do so. You may need to call a special phone number or visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center. This is to protect you from tax-related identity theft. 7. IP PINs. If a taxpayer reports that they are a victim of ID theft or the IRS identifies a taxpayer as being a victim, he or she will be issued an IP PIN. The IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that a victim of ID theft uses to file a tax return. Each year, you will receive an IRS letter with a new IP PIN. 8. Data Breaches. If you learn about a data breach that may have compromised your personal information, keep in mind that not every data breach results in identity theft. Furthermore, not every identity theft case involves taxes. Make sure you know what kind of information has been stolen so you can take the appropriate steps before contacting the IRS. 9. Report Suspicious Activity. If you suspect or know of an individual or business that is committing tax fraud, you can report it on the IRS.gov website. 10. IRS Website. Information about identity theft is available on the IRS website. There is also a special section devoted to identity theft with a phone number available for victims to obtain assistance. If you have any questions about identity theft or have any reason to believe that you've been a victim of identity theft, please contact the office as soon as possible. Go to top

Who Can Represent You Before the IRS?

Many people use a tax professional to prepare their taxes. Anyone who prepares, or assists in preparing, all or substantially all of a federal tax return for compensation is required to have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All enrolled agents must also have a valid PTIN. Tax professionals with an IRS Preparer. If you choose to have someone prepare your federal tax return you should know who can represent you before the IRS--and when--if there is a problem with your return. Representation rights, also known as practice rights, fall into two categories:
  • Unlimited Representation
  • Limited Representation
Unlimited representation rights allow a credentialed tax practitioner to represent you before the IRS on any tax matter. This is true no matter who prepared your return. Credentialed tax professionals who have unlimited representation rights include:
  • Enrolled agents
  • Certified Public Accountants
  • Attorneys
Limited representation rights authorize the tax professional to represent you if, and only if, they prepared and signed the return. They can do this only before IRS revenue agents, customer service representatives and similar IRS employees. They cannot represent clients whose returns they did not prepare. They cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection issues even if they did prepare the return in question. For returns filed after December 31, 2015, the only tax return preparers with limited representation rights are Annual Filing Season Program Participants. The Annual Filing Season Program is a voluntary program. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who aim for a higher level of professionalism are encouraged to participate. Other tax return preparers have limited representation rights, but only for returns filed before Jan. 1, 2016. Keep these changes in mind and choose wisely when you select a tax return preparer. Go to top

Ten Key Tax Facts about Home Sales

In most cases, gains from sales are taxable. But did you know that if you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes? Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year. 1. Exclusion of Gain. You may be able to exclude part or all of the gain from the sale of your home. This rule may apply if you meet the eligibility test. Parts of the test involve your ownership and use of the home. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale. 2. Exceptions May Apply. There are exceptions to the ownership, use, and other rules. One exception applies to persons with a disability. Another applies to certain members of the military. That rule includes certain government and Peace Corps workers. For more information about these exceptions, please call the office. 3. Exclusion Limit. The most gain you can exclude from tax is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain. 4. May Not Need to Report Sale. If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return. 5. When You Must Report the Sale. You must report the sale on your tax return if you can't exclude all or part of the gain. You must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That's also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. 6. Exclusion Frequency Limit. Generally, you may exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years. Some exceptions may apply to this rule. 7. Only a Main Home Qualifies. If you own more than one home, you may only exclude the gain on the sale of your main home. Your main home usually is the home that you live in most of the time. 8. First-time Homebuyer Credit. If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit when you bought the home, special rules apply to the sale. For more on those rules, please call. 9. Home Sold at a Loss. If you sell your main home at a loss, you can't deduct the loss on your tax return. 10. Report Your Address Change. After you sell your home and move, update your address with the IRS. To do this, file Form 8822, Change of Address. You can find the address to send it to in the form's instructions on page two. If you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Questions? Help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Virtual Currency Treated as Property for Tax Purposes

Many retailers and online businesses now accept virtual currency for sales transactions but the federal tax implications remain relatively unknown to many retailers. If you're a retailer who accepts virtual currency such as Bitcoins for transactions, here's what you need to know. Sometimes, virtual currency such as Bitcoins operate like "real" currency, i.e. the coin and paper money of the United States or of any other country that is designated as legal tender, circulates, and is customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issuance. But bitcoins do not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction. If you've been paid in virtual currency, you should be aware that virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes. In other words, general tax principles that apply to property transactions also apply to transactions using virtual currency. Among other things, this means that:
  • Wages paid to employees using virtual currency are taxable to the employee, must be reported by an employer on a Form W-2, and are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.
  • Payments using virtual currency made to independent contractors and other service providers are taxable, and self-employment tax rules generally apply. Normally, payers must issue Form 1099.
  • The character of gain or loss from the sale or exchange of virtual currency depends on whether the virtual currency is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer.
  • A payment made using virtual currency is subject to information reporting to the same extent as any other payment made in property.
If you're a business or individual with questions about virtual currency such as bitcoins, don't hesitate to call the office for assistance. Go to top

Understanding the Gift Tax

If you gave money or property to someone as a gift, you may wonder about the federal gift tax. Many gifts are not subject to the gift tax. Here are seven tax tips about gifts and the gift tax. 1. Nontaxable Gifts. The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are exceptions to this rule. The following are not taxable gifts:
  • Gifts that do not exceed the annual exclusion for the calendar year,
  • Tuition or medical expenses you paid directly to a medical or educational institution for someone,
  • Gifts to your spouse (for federal tax purposes, the term "spouse" includes individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married),
  • Gifts to a political organization for its use, and
  • Gifts to charities.
2. Annual Exclusion. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax. For example, there is usually no tax if you make a gift to your spouse or to a charity. If you give a gift to someone else, the gift tax usually does not apply until the value of the gift exceeds the annual exclusion for the year. For 2017, the annual exclusion is $14,000 (same as 2016). 3. No Tax on Recipient. Generally, the person who receives your gift will not have to pay a federal gift tax. That person also does not pay income tax on the value of the gift received. 4. Gifts Not Deductible. Making a gift does not ordinarily affect your federal income tax. You cannot deduct the value of gifts you make (other than deductible charitable contributions). 5. Forgiven and Certain Loans. The gift tax may also apply when you forgive a debt or make a loan that is interest-free or below the market interest rate. 6. Gift-Splitting. In 2017, you and your spouse can give a gift up to $28,000 ($14,000 each) to a third party without making it a taxable gift. You can consider that one-half of the gift be given by you and one-half by your spouse. 7. Filing Requirement. You must file Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return if any of the following apply:
  • You gave gifts to at least one person (other than your spouse) that amount to more than the annual exclusion for the year.
  • You and your spouse are splitting a gift. This is true even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion.
  • You gave someone (other than your spouse) a gift of a future interest that they can't actually possess, enjoy, or from which they'll receive income later.
  • You gave your spouse an interest in property that will terminate due to a future event.
Still confused about the gift tax? Please call for assistance. Go to top

Keep Track of Miscellaneous Deductions

Miscellaneous deductions such as certain work-related expenses you paid for as an employee can reduce your tax bill, but you must itemize deductions when you file to claim these costs. If you usually claim the standard deduction, think about itemizing instead because you might be able to pay less tax. Here are some tax tips that may help you reduce your taxes: Deductions Subject to the Limit. You can deduct most miscellaneous costs only if their sum is more than two percent of your adjusted gross income. These include expenses such as,
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses.
  • Job search costs for a new job in the same line of work.
  • Some work clothes and uniforms.
  • Tools for your job.
  • Union dues.
  • Work-related travel and transportation.
  • The cost you paid to prepare your tax return. These fees include the cost you paid for tax preparation software. They also include any fee you paid for e-filing of your return.
Deductions Not Subject to the Limit. Some deductions are not subject to the two percent limit. They include:
  • Certain casualty and theft losses. In most cases, this rule applies to damaged or stolen property you held for investment. This may include personal property such as works of art, stocks, and bonds.
  • Gambling losses up to the total of your gambling winnings.
  • Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.
You claim allowable miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, but keep in mind, however, that there are many expenses that you cannot deduct. For example, you can't deduct personal living or family expenses. Need more information about itemizing deductions or help setting up a system to track your itemized deductions? Don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Working with Checks in QuickBooks

"I don't write checks anymore." You hear a lot of people say that these days, and for many consumers, debit cards, smartphone payment apps, and online banking have all replaced the old paper checkbook. That's fine if you're at Starbucks or the grocery store, but many small businesses still prefer to issue paper checks to pay bills, cover expenses, and make product and service purchases. QuickBooks provides tools that help you create, print, and track checks. But you don't just head to the Write Checks window every time something needs to be paid. There are numerous times when you would record a payment in a different area of the program. For example, if you've already created a bill in Enter Bills, you'd go to the Pay Bills screen to dispatch a check. Figure 1: Once you've recorded a bill in Enter Bills, you need to visit the Pay Bills screen to dispatch a check. The image above shows the bottom of that screen. Other examples here include:
  • Issuing paychecks (click the Pay Employees icon),
  • Submitting payroll taxes and liabilities (Pay Liabilities icon), and
  • Paying sales taxes (Manage sales tax icon).

Simple Steps

Let's say you asked an employee to go to an office supply store to pick up some copy paper because you ran short before your normal shipment came in. If you knew the exact amount it would cost, you could write a check directly to the shop. But the employee agrees to pay for it and be reimbursed. Click the Write Checks icon on the home page. If the BANK ACCOUNT that's showing isn't the correct one, click the arrow to the right of that field and select the right one. Unless you've written a check to that employee before, he won't be in the Vendor list that opens when you click the arrow to the right of PAY TO THE ORDER OF. Enter his name in that field. The Name Not Found window opens. If this was a new vendor that you would be working with again, you'd click Set Up and follow the instructions in the step-by-step wizard that opened. Since this isn't the case, click Quick Add. In the window that opens, click the button next to Vendor. Note: If you're using a payroll application, you already have an employee record for that individual, which would have filled in automatically when you started typing the name. Since this is a Non-Payroll Transaction, it won't get mixed up with his payroll records as long as you assign the correct account. Figure 2: If you don't want to create an entire record for the payee of a check, you can just click Quick Add. QuickBooks will then return you to the check-writing screen, where you can verify the check number and date, and enter the amount. Fill in the MEMO field so you'll remember the reason for the payment. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see a tabbed register. The Expenses tab should be highlighted and the amount of your check entered. Click the down arrow in the field under ACCOUNT to open the list, and select Office Supplies. The AMOUNT should fill in automatically. Not sure which account to select, and what the remaining three columns mean? Please call the office for assistance. . Note: You would only enter the expense under the Items tab if you were buying inventory items or paying job-related costs. Figure 3: Warning: If you're planning to print the check, be sure to check the Print Later box in the horizontal toolbar at the top of the screen. When you're finished, save the transaction. Since you want to pay the employee right away, click the Print Checks icon and click in the field in front of the correct check to select it, then click OK.

Easy, But Tricky

QuickBooks makes the mechanics of writing checks easy. Simple as it is, though, a lot can go wrong if you, for example:
  • Issue a check from the wrong screen,
  • Classify a check incorrectly, or,
  • Skip a step.
If you're new to check-writing in QuickBooks or are confused about any of its attributes, don't hesitate to contact the office to set up a learning session with one of our QuickBooks professionals. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for August 2017

August 10

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during July, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2017. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

August 15

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

July 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Hobby or Business? Why It Matters

Millions of Americans have hobbies such as sewing, woodworking, fishing, gardening, stamp and coin collecting, but when that hobby starts to turn a profit, it might just be considered a business by the IRS.

Definition of a Hobby vs. a Business

The IRS defines a hobby as an activity that is not pursued for profit. A business, on the other hand, is an activity that is carried out with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit. The tax considerations are different for each activity, so it's important for taxpayers to determine whether an activity is engaged in for profit as a business or is just a hobby for personal enjoyment. Of course, you must report and pay tax on income from almost all sources, including hobbies. But when it comes to deductions such as expenses and losses, the two activities differ in their tax implications.

Is Your Hobby Actually a Business?

If you're not sure whether you're running a business or simply enjoying a hobby, here are nine factors you should consider:
  • Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner.
  • Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable.
  • Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood.
  • Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business).
  • Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability.
  • Whether you, or your advisors, have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business.
  • Whether you were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
  • Whether the activity makes a profit in some years, and how much profit it makes.
  • Whether you can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.
An activity is presumed to be for profit if it makes a profit in at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year (or at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training, or racing horses). The IRS says that it looks at all facts when determining whether a hobby is for pleasure or business, but the profit test is the primary one. If the activity earned income in three out of the last five years, it is for profit. If the activity does not meet the profit test, the IRS will take an individualized look at the facts of your activity using the list of questions above to determine whether it's a business or a hobby. It should be noted that this list is not all-inclusive. Business Activity: If the activity is determined to be a business, you can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for the operation of the business on a Schedule C or C-EZ on your Form 1040 without considerations for percentage limitations. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for your business. Hobby: If an activity is a hobby, not for profit, losses from that activity may not be used to offset other income. You can only deduct expenses up to the amount of income earned from the hobby. These expenses, with other miscellaneous expenses, are itemized on Schedule A and must also meet the two percent limitation of your adjusted gross income in order to be deducted.

What Are Allowable Hobby Deductions?

If your activity is not carried on for profit, allowable deductions cannot exceed the gross receipts for the activity.
Note: Internal Revenue Code Section 183 (Activities Not Engaged in for Profit) limits deductions that can be claimed when an activity is not engaged in for profit. IRC 183 is sometimes referred to as the "hobby loss rule."
Deductions for hobby activities are claimed as itemized deductions on Schedule A, Form 1040. These deductions must be taken in the following order and only to the extent stated in each of three categories:
  • Deductions that a taxpayer may claim for certain personal expenses, such as home mortgage interest and taxes, may be taken in full.
  • Deductions that don't result in an adjustment to the basis of property, such as advertising, insurance premiums, and wages, may be taken next, to the extent gross income for the activity is more than the deductions from the first category.
  • Deductions that reduce the basis of property, such as depreciation and amortization, are taken last, but only to the extent gross income for the activity is more than the deductions taken in the first two categories.
If your hobby is regularly generating income, it could make tax sense for you to consider it a business because you might be able to lower your taxes and take certain deductions. If you're still wondering whether your hobby is actually a business, help is just a phone call away. Go to top

Minimizing Tax on Mutual Fund Activities

Tax law generally treats mutual fund shareholders as if they directly owned a proportionate share of the fund's portfolio of securities and you must report as income any mutual fund distributions, whether or not they are reinvested. Thus, all dividends and interest from securities in the portfolio, as well as any capital gains from the sales of securities, are taxed to the shareholders. Whether you're new to mutual funds or a seasoned investor who wants to learn more, these tips will help you avoid the tax bite on mutual fund investments.

Taxable Distributions

First, you need to understand how distributions from mutual funds are taxed. There are two types of taxable distributions: (1) ordinary dividends and (2) capital gain distributions. Ordinary Dividends. Distributions of ordinary dividends, which come from the interest and dividends earned by securities in the fund's portfolio, represent the net earnings of the fund. They are paid out periodically to shareholders. Like the return on any other investment, mutual fund dividend payments decline or rise from year to year, depending on the income earned by the fund in accordance with its investment policy. These dividend payments are considered ordinary income and must be reported on your tax return. Qualified dividends. Qualified dividends are ordinary dividends that are subject to the same the zero or 15 percent maximum tax rate that applies to net capital gain. In 2017, the maximum rate of tax on qualified dividends is 20 percent on any amount that otherwise would be taxed at the 39.6% tax rate, 15 percent on any amount that would otherwise be taxed at rates greater than 15% but less than 39.6%, and zero percent on any amount that would otherwise be taxed at a 10% or 15% rate. Dividends from foreign corporations are qualified where their stock or ADRs (American depositary receipts) are traded on U.S. exchanges or with IRS approval where U.S. tax treaties cover the dividends. Dividends from mutual funds qualify where a mutual fund is receiving qualified dividends and distributing the required proportions thereof. Capital gain distributions. When gains from the fund's sales of securities exceed losses, they are distributed to shareholders. As with ordinary dividends, these capital gain distributions vary in amount from year to year. They are treated as long-term capital gain, regardless of how long you have owned your fund shares. A mutual fund owner may also have capital gains from selling mutual fund shares. Capital gains rates. The beneficial long-term capital gains rates on sales of mutual fund shares apply only to profits on shares held more than a year before sale. Profit on shares held a year or less before sale is considered ordinary income, but capital gain distributions are long-term regardless of the length of time held before the distribution. Starting with tax year 2013, long term capital gains are taxed at 20 percent (39.6% tax bracket), 15 percent for the middle tax brackets (25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%), and 0 percent for the 10% and 15% tax brackets. At tax time, your mutual fund will send you a Form 1099-DIV, which tells you what earnings to report on your income tax return, and how much of it is qualified dividends. Because tax rates on qualified dividends are the same as for capital gains distributions and long-term gains on sales, these items combined in your tax reporting, that is, qualified dividends added to long-term capital gains. Capital losses are netted against capital gains before applying the favorable capital gains rates, and losses will not be netted against dividends. Medicare Tax. Starting with tax year 2013, an additional Medicare tax of 3.8 percent is applied to net investment income for individuals with modified adjusted gross income above $200,000 (single filers) and $250,000 (joint filers).

Minimizing Tax Liability on Mutual Fund Activities

Now that you have a better understanding of how mutual funds are taxed, here are seven tips for minimizing the tax on your mutual fund activities.

1. Keep Track of Reinvested Dividends

Most funds offer you the option of having dividend and capital gain distributions automatically reinvested in the fund--a good way to buy new shares and expand your holdings. While most shareholders take advantage of this service, it is not a way to avoid being taxed. Reinvested ordinary dividends are still taxed (at long-term capital gains rates if qualified), just as if you had received them in cash. Similarly, reinvested capital gain distributions are taxed as long-term capital gain.
Tip: If you reinvest, add the amount reinvested to the "cost basis" of your account, i.e., the amount you paid for your shares. The cost basis of your new shares purchased through automatic reinvesting is easily seen from your fund account statements. This information is important later on when you sell shares.

2. Be Aware That Exchanges of Shares Are Taxable Events

The "exchange privilege," or the ability to exchange shares of one fund for shares of another, is a popular feature of many mutual fund "families," i.e., fund organizations that offer a variety of funds. For tax purposes, exchanges are treated as if you had sold your shares in one fund and used the cash to purchase shares in another fund. In other words, you must report any capital gain from the exchange on your return. The same tax rules used for calculating gains and losses when you redeem shares apply when you exchange them.
Note: Gains on these redemptions and exchanges are taxable whether the fund invests in taxable or tax-exempt securities.

3. Do Not Overlook the Advantages of Tax-Exempt Funds

If you are in the higher tax brackets and are seeing your investment profits taxed away, then there is a good alternative to consider: tax-exempt mutual funds. Distributions from such funds that are attributable to interest from state and municipal bonds are exempt from federal income tax (although they may be subject to state tax). The same applies to distributions from tax-exempt money market funds. These funds also invest in municipal bonds, but only in those that are short-term or close to maturity, the aim being to reduce the fluctuation in NAV that occurs in long-term funds. Many taxpayers can ease the tax bite by investing in municipal bond funds for example.
Note: Capital gain distributions paid by municipal bond funds (unlike distributions of interest) are not free from federal tax. Most states also tax these capital gain distributions.
Although income from tax-exempt funds is federally tax-exempt, you must still report on your tax return the amount of tax-exempt income you received during the year. This is an information-reporting requirement only and does not convert tax-exempt earnings into taxable income. Your tax-exempt mutual fund will send you a statement summarizing its distributions for the past year and explaining how to handle tax-exempt dividends on a state-by-state basis.

4. Keep Records of Your Mutual Fund Transactions

It is crucial to keep the statements from each mutual fund you own, especially the year-end statement. By law, mutual funds must send you a record of every transaction in your account, including reinvestments and exchanges of shares. The statement shows the date, amount, and number of full and fractional shares bought or sold. These transactions are also contained in the year-end statement. In addition, you will receive a year-end Form 1099-B, which reports the sale of fund shares, for any non-IRA mutual fund account in which you sold shares during the year. Why is recordkeeping so important? When you sell mutual fund shares, you realize a capital gain or loss in the year the shares are sold. You must pay tax on any capital gain arising from the sale, just as you would from a sale of individual securities. (Losses may be used to offset other gains in the current year and deducted up to an additional $3,000 of ordinary income. Remaining loss may be carried for comparable treatment in later years.) The amount of the gain or loss is determined by the difference between the cost basis of the shares (generally the original purchase price) and the sale price. Thus, to figure the gain or loss on a sale of shares, it is essential to know the cost basis. If you have kept your statements, you will be able to figure this out.
Example: In 2012, you purchased 100 shares of Fund JKL at $10 a share for a total purchase price of $1,000. Your cost basis for each share is $10 (what you paid for the shares). Any fees or commissions paid at the time of purchase are included in the basis, so since you paid an up-front commission of two percent, or $20, on the purchase, your cost basis for each share is $10.20 ($1,020 divided by 100). Let's say you sell your Fund JKL shares this year for $1,500. Assume there are no adjustments to your $ 1,020 basis, such as basis attributable to shares purchased through reinvestment. On this year's income tax return, you report a capital gain of $480 ($1,500 minus $1,020). Note: Commissions or brokerage fees are not deducted separately as investment expenses on your tax return since they are taken into account in your cost basis.
One of the advantages of mutual fund investing is that the fund provides you with all of the records that you need to compute gains and losses--a real plus at tax time. Some funds even provide cost basis information or calculate gains and losses for shares sold. That is why it is important to save the statements. However, you are not required to use the fund's gain or loss computations in your tax reporting.

5. Re-investing Dividends & Capital Gain Distributions when Calculating

Make sure that you do not pay any unnecessary capital gain taxes on the sale of mutual fund shares because you forgot about reinvested amounts. When you reinvest dividends and capital gain distributions to buy more shares, you should add the cost of those shares (that is, the amount invested) to the cost basis of the shares in that account because you have already paid tax on those shares. Failure to include reinvested dividends and capital gain distributions in your cost basis is a costly mistake.

6. Don't Forget State Taxation

Many states treat mutual fund distributions the same way the federal government does. There are, however, some differences. For example:
  • If your mutual fund invests in U.S. government obligations, states generally exempt, from state taxation, dividends attributable to federal obligation interest.
  • Most states do not tax income from their own obligations, whether held directly or through mutual funds. On the other hand, the majority of states do tax income from the obligations of other states. Thus, in most states, you will not pay state tax to the extent you receive, through the fund, income from obligations issued by your state or its municipalities.
  • Most states don't grant reduced rates for capital gains or dividends.

7. Don't Overlook Possible Tax Credits for Foreign Income

If your fund invests in foreign stocks or bonds, part of the income it distributes may have been subject to foreign tax withholding. If so, you may be entitled to a tax deduction or credit for your pro-rata share of taxes paid. Your fund will provide you with the necessary information.
Tip: Because a tax credit provides a dollar-for-dollar offset against your tax bill, while a deduction reduces the amount of income on which you must pay tax, it is generally advantageous to claim the foreign tax credit. If the foreign tax doesn't exceed $300 ($600 on a joint return), then you may not need to file IRS form 1116 to claim the credit.

Questions?

If you have any questions about the tax treatment of mutual funds, please call. Go to top

Tax Implications of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and Lending Club have become increasingly popular for both individual fundraising and small business owners looking for start-up capital or funding for creative ventures. The upside is that it's often possible to raise the cash you need, but the downside is that the IRS might consider that money taxable income. Here's what you need to know.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by gathering contributions online from a large group of backers. Initially used by musicians, filmmakers, and other creative types to raise small sums of money for projects that were unlikely to turn a profit, now it is used to fund a variety of projects, events, and products--and has even become an alternative to venture capital for some.

Are Funds I receive Taxable?

All income you receive, regardless of the source, is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS--and that includes crowdfunding dollars. Say you develop a prototype for a product that looks promising. You run a Kickstarter campaign to raise additional funding, setting a goal of $15,000 and offer a small gift in the form of a t-shirt, cup with a logo or a bumper sticker to your donors. Your campaign is more successful than you anticipated it would be and you raise $35,000--more than twice your goal. Let's look at how the IRS might view your crowdfunding campaign: Taxable sale. Because you offered something (a gift or reward) in return for a payment pledge it is considered a sale. As such, it may be subject to sales and use tax. Taxable income. Since you raised $35,000, that amount is considered taxable income. But even if you only raised $15,000 and offered no gift, the $15,000 is still considered taxable income and should be reported as such on your tax return--even though you did not receive a Form 1099-K from a third party payment processor (more about this below). Generally, crowdfunding revenues are included in income as long as they are not:
  • Loans that must be repaid;
  • Capital contributed to an entity in exchange for an equity interest in the entity; or
  • Gifts made out of detached generosity and without any "quid pro quo." However, a voluntary transfer without a "quid pro quo" isn't necessarily a gift for federal income tax purposes.
Income offset by business expenses. You may not owe taxes however, if your crowdfunding campaign is deemed a trade or active business (not a hobby) in that your business expenses might offset your tax liability. Factors affecting which expenses could be deductible against crowdfunding income include whether the business is a start-up and which accounting method you use (cash vs. accrual) for your funds. For example, if your business is a startup you may qualify for additional tax benefits such as deducting startup costs or applying part or all of the research and development credit against payroll tax liability instead of income tax liability. Timing of the crowdfunding campaign, receipt of funds, and when expenses are incurred also affect whether business expenses will offset taxable income in a given tax year. For instance, if your crowdfunding campaign ends in October but the project is delayed until January of the following year it is likely that there will be few business expenses to offset the income received from the crowdfunding campaign since most expenses are incurred during or after project completion. As such, you would not be able to offset any income from funds raised during your crowdfunding campaign in one tax year with business expenses incurred the following tax year. Non-Taxable Gift. If money is donated or pledged without receiving something in return, it may be considered a "gift," and the recipient does not pay any tax. Up to $14,000 per year per recipient may be given by the "gift giver."

How do I Report Funds on my Tax Return?

Companies that issue third party payment transactions (e.g. Amazon if you use Kickstarter or PayPal if you use Indiegogo) are required to report payments that exceed a threshold amount of $20,000 and 200 transactions to the IRS using Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions. These minimum reporting thresholds apply only to payments settled through a third-party network; there is no threshold for payment card transactions. Form 1099-K includes the gross amount of all reportable payment transactions and is sent to the taxpayer by January 31 if payments were received during the prior calendar year. Include the amount found on your Form 1099-K when figuring your income on your tax return, generally, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business for most small business owners.

Don't Get Caught Short.

If you're thinking of using crowdfunding to raise money for your small business startup or for a personal cause, consult a tax and accounting professional first. Don't make the mistake of using all of your crowdfunding dollars on your project and then discovering you owe tax and have no money with which to pay it. Go to top

Tax Breaks for Hiring New Employees

If you're thinking about hiring new employees this year, you won't want to miss out on these tax breaks.

1. Work Opportunity Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit for employers that hire employees from the following targeted groups of individuals:
  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Food Stamp Recipient
  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Recipient
  • Qualified Veterans
  • Qualified Ex-Felons, Pardoned, Paroled or Work Release Individuals
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals
  • Qualified Summer Youths
  • Qualified Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients
  • Qualified Individuals living within an Empowerment Zone or Rural Renewal Community
  • Long Term Family Assistance Recipient (TANF) (formerly known as Welfare to Work)
The tax credit (a maximum of $9,600) is taken as a general business credit on Form 3800 and is applied against tax liability on business income. It is limited to the amount of the business income tax liability or social security tax owed. Normal carry-back and carry-forward rules apply. For qualified tax-exempt organizations, the credit is limited to the amount of employer social security tax owed on wages paid to all employees for the period the credit is claimed. Also, an employer must obtain certification that an individual is a member of the targeted group before the employer may claim the credit.
Note: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act) retroactively allows eligible employers to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for all targeted group employee categories that were in effect prior to the enactment of the PATH Act, if the individual began or begins work for the employer after December 31, 2014 and before January 1, 2020.
For tax-exempt employers, the PATH Act retroactively allows them to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2014, and before January 1, 2020.

2. Payroll Tax Deduction - R & D Tax Credit

Starting in 2016, startup businesses (C-corps and S-corps) with little to no revenue that qualify for the research and development tax credit can apply the credit against employer-paid Social Security taxes instead of income tax owed. Sole proprietorships, as well as Partnerships, C-corps and S-corps with gross receipts of less than $5 million for the current year and with no gross receipts for the previous year, can take advantage of the credit. Up to $250,000 in payroll costs can be offset by the credit.

3. Disabled Access Credit and the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction

Employers that hire disabled workers might also be able to take advantage of two additional tax credits in addition to the WOTC. The Disabled Access Credit is a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full-time employees in the previous year; they may take the credit each, and every year they incur access expenditures. Eligible expenditures include amounts paid or incurred to:
1. Remove barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities;2. Provide qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals; 3. Provide qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments; or 4. Acquire or modify equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities.
The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized. Businesses claim the deduction by listing it as a separate expense on their income tax return. Businesses may use the Disabled Tax Credit and the Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction together in the same tax year if the expenses meet the requirements of both sections. To use both, the deduction is equal to the difference between the total expenditures and the amount of the credit claimed.

4. Indian Employment Credit

The Indian Employment Credit provides businesses with an incentive to hire certain individuals (enrolled members of an Indian tribe or the spouse of an enrolled member) who live on or near an Indian reservation. The business does not have to be in an empowerment zone or enterprise community to qualify for the credit, which offsets the business's federal tax liability. The credit is 20 percent of the excess of the current qualified wages and qualified employee health insurance costs (not to exceed $20,000) over the sum of the corresponding amounts that were paid or incurred during the calendar year of 1993 (not a typo).

5. State Tax Credits

Many states use tax credits and deductions as incentives for hiring and job growth. Employers are eligible for these credits and deductions when they create new jobs and hire employees that meet certain requirements. Examples include the New Employment Credit (NEC) in California, the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit, and Empire Zone Tax Credits in New York.

Wondering what tax breaks your business qualifies for?

Call today and speak to a tax and accounting professional you can trust. Go to top

Defer Capital Gains using Like-Kind Exchanges

If you're a savvy investor, you probably know that you must generally report as income any mutual fund distributions whether you reinvest them or exchange shares in one fund for shares of another. In other words, you must report and pay any capital gains tax owed. But if real estate's your game, did you know that it's possible to defer capital gains by taking advantage of a tax break that allows you to swap investment property on a tax-deferred basis? Named after Section 1031 of the tax code, a like-kind exchange generally applies to real estate and was designed for people who wanted to exchange properties of equal value. If you own land in Oregon and trade it for a shopping center in Rhode Island, as long as the values of the two properties are equal, nobody pays capital gains tax even if both properties may have appreciated since they were originally purchased. Section 1031 transactions don't have to involve identical types of investment properties, they just have to be of "like-kind." In other words, personal properties of a like class are like-kind properties; however, livestock of different sexes is not considered like-kind properties. Furthermore, personal property used predominantly in the United States and personal property used predominantly outside the United States are not like-kind properties. For example, you can swap an apartment building for a shopping center, or a piece of undeveloped, raw land for an office or building. You can even swap a second home that you rent out for a parking lot. There's also no limit as to how many times you can use a Section 1031 exchange. It's entirely possible to roll over the gain from your investment swaps for many years and avoid paying capital gains tax until a property is finally sold. Keep in mind, however, that gain is deferred, but not forgiven, in a like-kind exchange, and you must calculate and keep track of your basis in the new property you acquired in the exchange. Section 1031 is not for personal use. For example, you can't use it for stocks, bonds, and other securities, or personal property (with limited exceptions such as artwork).

Properties of unequal value

Let's say you have a small piece of property, and you want to trade up for a bigger one by exchanging it with another party. You can make the transaction without having to pay capital gains tax on the difference between the smaller property's current market value and your lower original cost. That's good for you, but the other property owner doesn't make out so well. Presumably, you will have to pay cash or assume a mortgage on the bigger property to make up the difference in value. This is referred to as "boot" in the tax trade, and your partner must pay capital gains tax on that part of the transaction. To avoid that you could work through an intermediary who is often known as an escrow agent. Instead of a two-way deal involving a one-for-one swap, your transaction becomes a three-way deal. Your replacement property may come from a third party through the escrow agent. Juggling numerous properties in various combinations, the escrow agent may arrange evenly valued swaps. Under the right circumstances, you don't even need to do an equal exchange. You can sell a property at a profit, buy a more expensive one, and defer the tax indefinitely. You sell a property and have the cash put into an escrow account. Then the escrow agent buys another property that you want. He or she gets the title to the deed and transfers the property to you.

Mortgage and other debt

When considering a Section 1031 exchange, it's important to take into account mortgage loans and other debt on the property you are planning to swap. Let's say you hold a $200,000 mortgage on your existing property, but your "new" property only holds a mortgage of $150,000. Even if you're not receiving cash from the trade, your mortgage liability has decreased by $50,000. In the eyes of the IRS, this is classified as "boot, " and you will still be liable for capital gains tax because it is still treated as "gain."

Advance planning required

A Section 1031 transaction takes advance planning. You must identify your replacement property within 45 days of selling your estate. Then you must close on that within 180 days. There is no grace period. If your closing gets delayed by a storm or by other unforeseen circumstances, and you cannot close in time, you're back to a taxable sale. Find an escrow agent that specializes in these types of transactions and contact your accountant to set up the IRS form ahead of time. Some people just sell their property, take cash and put it in their bank account. They figure that all they have to do is find a new property within 45 days and close within 180 days. But that's not the case. As soon as "sellers" have cash in their hands, or the paperwork isn't done right, they've lost their opportunity to use this provision of the code.

Personal residences and vacation homes

Section 1031 doesn't apply to personal residences, but the IRS lets you sell your principal residence tax-free as long as the gain is under $250,000 for individuals ($500,000 if you're married). Section 1031 exchanges may be used for swapping vacation homes, but present a trickier situation. Here's an example of how this might work. Let's say you stop going to your condo at the ski resort and instead rent it out to a bona fide tenant for 12 months. In doing so, you've effectively converted the condo to an investment property, which you can then swap for another property under the Section 1031 exchange. However, if you want to use your new property as a vacation home, there's a catch. You'll need to comply with a 2008 IRS safe harbor rule that states in each of the 12-month periods following the 1031 exchange you must rent the dwelling to someone for 14 days (or more) consecutively. In addition, you cannot use the dwelling more than the greater of 14 days or 10 percent of the number of days during the 12-month period that the dwelling unit is rented out for at fair rental price. You must report a section 1031 exchange to the IRS on Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges and file it with your tax return for the year in which the exchange occurred. If you do not specifically follow the rules for like-kind exchanges, you may be held liable for taxes, penalties, and interest on your transactions. While they may seem straightforward, like-kind exchanges can be complicated. There are all kinds of restrictions and pitfalls that you need to be careful of. If you're considering a Section 1031 exchange or have any questions, please call. Go to top

Phone Scam Alert: Fake Certified Letters

Taxpayers should be aware of the most recent scam linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where fraudsters call to demand an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. In the latest twist, the scammer claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters purportedly sent to the taxpayer in the mail but returned as undeliverable. The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card. The scammer also tells the victim that the card is linked to the EFTPS system when, in fact, it is entirely controlled by the scammer. The victim is also warned not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made. EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Since EFTPS is an automated system, taxpayers won't receive a call from the IRS. In addition, taxpayers have several options for paying a real tax bill and are not required to use a specific one. The IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. If you receive such as phone call, do not give out any information. Hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484. You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes. Tell Tale Signs of a Scam: The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments.
  • Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For more information about scams, visit the "Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts" page on IRS.gov. If you believe you've been a victim of a phone scam, don't hesitate to call the office for assistance. Go to top

Injured or Innocent Spouse Tax Relief: The Facts

You may be an injured spouse if you file a joint tax return and all or part of your portion of a refund was, or is expected to be, applied to your spouse's legally enforceable past-due financial obligations. Here are seven facts about claiming injured spouse relief. 1. To be considered an injured spouse; you must have paid federal income tax or claimed a refundable tax credit, such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on the joint return, and not be legally obligated to pay the past-due debt. 2. Special rules apply in community property states. For more information about the factors used to determine whether you are subject to community property laws, please call. 3. If you filed a joint return and you're not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. If you need assistance filling this out, please contact the office. 4. You may file form 8379 along with your original tax return, or you may file it by itself after you receive an IRS notice about the offset. 5. You can file Form 8379 electronically. If you file a paper tax return you can include Form 8379 with your return, write "INJURED SPOUSE" at the top left of the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs. 6. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses' Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the "injured" spouse, must sign the form. 7. Do not use Form 8379 if you are claiming innocent spouse relief. Instead, file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. This relief from a joint liability applies only in certain limited circumstances. However, in 2011 the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit that applies to certain relief requests. IRS Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief, explains who may qualify, and how to request this relief. Questions? Don't hesitate to call. Go to top

Tax Tips for Legally Married Same-Sex Couples

Under a joint IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury ruling issued in 2013, same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, are treated as married for federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage. In addition, the ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit. Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country is covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law. Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status. Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations. Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2014, 2015 and 2016. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, which permit them to file refund claims for earlier tax years. In addition, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income. Need help? If you need to file a claim for a refund or have any questions about the IRS ruling, please call for assistance. Go to top

The Simplified Option for Home Office Deduction

If you're one of the more than 3.4 million taxpayers who claimed deductions for business use of a home (commonly referred to as the home office deduction)--but haven't taken advantage of it because you thought it was too complicated--then you might be interested in the simplified option. Available since tax year 2013, the optional home office deduction is capped at $1,500 per year and is based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet of office space. Currently, taxpayers claiming the home office deduction are generally required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation, and carryovers of unused deductions. Taxpayers claiming the optional deduction complete a significantly simplified form requiring taxpayers to complete a short worksheet in the tax instructions, and then enter the result on the tax return. There is a special calculation for daycare providers. Self-employed individuals claim the home office deduction on Form 1040, Schedule C, Line 30; farmers claim it on Schedule F, Line 32 and eligible employees claim it on Schedule A, Line 21. Though homeowners using the new option cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method. Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies, and wages paid to employees are still fully deductible. Current restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office must be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit tied to the income derived from the particular business, still apply under the new option. Regardless of the method used to compute the deduction, business expenses in excess of the gross income limitations are not deductible. Deductible expenses for business use of a home include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, casualty losses, utilities, insurance, depreciation, maintenance, and repairs. In general, expenses for the parts of the home not used for business are not deductible.Deductions for business storage are deductible when the dwelling unit is the sole fixed location of the business or for regular use of a residence for the provision of daycare services; exclusive use isn't required in these cases. Please contact the office if you would like more details about the simplified home office deduction. Go to top

Small Business Tax Tips: Payroll Expenses

Federal law requires most employers to withhold federal taxes from their employees' wages. Whether you're a small business owner who's just starting out or one who has been in business a while and is ready to hire an employee or two, here are five things you should know about withholding, reporting, and paying employment taxes. 1. Federal Income Tax. Small businesses first need to figure out how much tax to withhold. Small business employers can better understand the process by starting with an employee's Form W-4 and the withholding tables described in Publication 15, Employer's Tax Guide. Please call if you need help understanding withholding tables. 2. Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Most employers also withhold social security and Medicare taxes from employees' wages and deposit them along with the employers' matching share. In 2013, employers became responsible for withholding the Additional Medicare Tax on wages that exceed a threshold amount as well. There is no employer match for the Additional Medicare Tax, and certain types of wages and compensation are not subject to withholding. 3. Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax. Employers report and pay FUTA tax separately from other taxes. Employees do not pay this tax or have it withheld from their pay. Businesses pay FUTA taxes from their own funds. 4. Depositing Employment Taxes. Generally, employers pay employment taxes by making federal tax deposits through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). The amount of taxes withheld during a prior one-year period determines when to make the deposits. Publication 3151-A, The ABCs of FTDs: Resource Guide for Understanding Federal Tax Deposits and the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed are helpful tools. Failure to make a timely deposit can mean being subject to a failure-to-deposit penalty of up to 15 percent. But the penalty can be waived if an employer has a history of filing required returns and making tax payments on time. Penalty relief is available, however. Please call the office for more information. 5. Reporting Employment Taxes. Generally, employers report wages and compensation paid to an employee by filing the required forms with the IRS. E-filing Forms 940, 941, 943, 944 and 945 is an easy, secure and accurate way to file employment tax forms. Employers filing quarterly tax returns with an estimated total of $1,000 or less for the calendar year may now request to file Form 944,Employer's ANNUAL Federal Tax Return once a year instead. At the end of the year, the employer must provide employees with Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to report wages, tips, and other compensation. Small businesses file Forms W-2 and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration and if required, state or local tax departments. Questions about payroll taxes? If you have any questions about payroll taxes, please contact the office. Go to top

How to Keep Your QuickBooks Data Safe

Your QuickBooks company file contains some of the most sensitive information on your computer. You may have customers' credit card numbers and employees' Social Security numbers. An intruder who captured all that data could create tremendous problems for you and a lot of other people. That's probably the worst-case scenario. But other situations could also spell disaster for your business, which involves losing your company data through fraud, hacking, or simple technical failures. The importance of protecting your QuickBooks company file, especially your customer and payroll information, cannot be overstated. Whether someone steals it or it's inaccessible for another reason, it's gone. Keeping your business going after such a loss would be very difficult - maybe even impossible. The tips below should help prevent that from happening.

Internal Safeguards

No business owner wants to believe that his or her employees could use their QuickBooks access to commit fraud. But it happens. Your company file contains credit card and checking account data that could be used for nefarious purposes. As we discussed last spring, you can restrict user access to specific areas and actions of QuickBooks. Figure 1: You can limit your employees who have QuickBooks access to certain areas and activities. To get started, open the Company menu and select Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users. The User List window opens. It should have at least one entry there, for you (Admin). Click Add User and enter the employee's name and password in the next window that opens, and then click Next. Tip: Your QuickBooks license limits you to a specified number of users. If you're not sure how many you're allowed, click F2 to open the Product Information page. The number of user licenses that you've paid for appears in the upper left. On the next page of this wizard, click the button in front of Selected Areas of QuickBooks. The following screens will let you define that employee's access permissions in areas such as Sales and Accounts Receivable, Inventor, and Payroll and Employees. When you've clicked through every screen and reviewed the summary displayed, click Finish. Your user will now be able to sign in and access the areas you specified. You can--and should--take numerous other steps to keep your QuickBooks data safe. If your company is big enough to have a dedicated IT expert, he or she will handle most of this. But there's a lot you can do on your own to prevent data loss and theft.

Keep Your Operating System and Applications Updated

Figure 2: Don't ignore this dialog box. Software companies' occasional updates offer more than just adding new features and fixing bugs. They sometimes refresh your software to ensure greater security based on new threats. Don't forget about those all-important antivirus and anti-malware applications, as well as QuickBooks itself.

Keep Your Networks Safe

Just as a cold virus spreads around your office, so too, can unwanted intrusions like computer viruses. Don't allow an electronic epidemic to get started; take these steps ahead of time to prevent it:
  • Discourage employees from excessive web browsing. This can be a hard rule to enforce, as some employees probably need internet access for research, timecard entry, and other work-related tasks. Create a firm policy legislating what workers can and can't do on company-issued equipment (including tablets and smartphones) or any personal devices that use your wireless network.
  • Ask employees to refrain from using public networks on work equipment. Enforce the rules vigorously, and make compliance an element of performance evaluations.
  • Minimize app installations on business smartphones. Employees should ask for approval. Viruses and malware get in that way, as well as through some websites and email attachments.
  • Use monitoring software. If you can't afford to pay for "managed IT" (a la carte, third-party IT services), install an application that alerts you to problems.

Use Common Sense

You can fight data loss and theft by being cautious. Be diligent about backups, and if you create them on a local, portable device, don't leave them in the office; cloud-based storage is a better solution. Shred papers that have sensitive information on them. Log out of QuickBooks when you're not using it or when you leave your office. Be aware of who may be around you, looking over your shoulder. Data security is a serious matter. Don't hesitate to call if you are at all concerned with your own data safety.

Tips for posting on social media

Concerned about the safety of your QuickBooks data when posting on social media? Find out what security measures you can take by calling the office today. If you lose your QuickBooks data and you'll face serious consequences, so make sure you keep backups in a safe place. Do you issue smartphones to employees? Make sure they're not used on public networks. Finally, even if you don't have an IT specialist, you can still protect your QuickBooks data from viruses and malware. Call today and find out how. Go to top

Tax Due Dates for July 2017

July 10

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during June, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

July 17

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June. Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 31

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2017. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until August 10 to file the return. Employers - Federal unemployment tax. Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500. Employers - If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500-EZ for calendar-year 2016. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends. Certain Small Employers - Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2017 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter. Go to top Copyright © 2018  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

June 2017 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

QuickBooks Tips


Filing an Amended Return

What should you do if you already filed your federal tax return and then discover a mistake? First of all, don't worry. In most cases, all you have to do is file an amended tax return. But before you do that, here is what you should be aware of when filing an amended tax return. Taxpayers should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended (corrected) tax return. You must file the corrected tax return on paper. An amended return cannot be e-filed. If you need to file another schedule or form, don't forget to attach it to the amended return. An amended tax return should only be filed to correct errors or make changes to your original tax return. For example, you should amend your return if you need to change your filing status or correct your income, deductions or credits. You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors because the IRS automatically makes those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will mail you a request asking for those. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a separate 1040X for each return and mail them to the IRS in separate envelopes. Note the tax year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. You will find the appropriate IRS address to mail your return to in the Form 1040X instructions. If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing Form 1040X. Amended returns take up to 16 weeks to process. You may cash your original refund check while waiting for the additional refund. If you owe additional taxes file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties. You can use IRS Direct Pay to pay your tax directly from your checking or savings account. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. For example, the last day for most people to file a 2014 claim for a refund is April 17, 2018. Special rules may apply to certain claims. Please call the office if you would like more information about this topic. You can track the status of your amended tax return for the current year three weeks after you file. You can also check the status of amended returns for up to three prior years. To use the "Where's My Amended Return" tool on the IRS website, just enter your taxpayer identification number (usually your Social Security number), date of birth and zip code. If you have filed amended returns for more than one year, you can select each year individually to check the status of each. Don't hesitate to call if you need assistance filing an amended return or have any questions about Form 1040X. Go to top

Tax Planning for Small Business Owners

Tax planning is the process of looking at various tax options to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business and personal transactions to reduce or eliminate tax liability. Many small business owners ignore tax planning and don't even think about their taxes until it's time to meet with their accountants once a year. But tax planning is an ongoing process and good tax advice is a valuable commodity. It is to your benefit to review your income and expenses monthly and meet with your CPA or tax advisor quarterly to analyze how you can take full advantage of the provisions, credits, and deductions that are legally available to you. Although tax avoidance planning is legal, tax evasion - the reduction of tax through deceit, subterfuge, or concealment - is not. Frequently what sets tax evasion apart from tax avoidance is the IRS's finding that there was fraudulent intent on the part of the business owner. The following are four of the areas the IRS examiners commonly focus on as pointing to possible fraud:
  1. Failure to report substantial amounts of income such as a shareholder's failure to report dividends or a store owner's failure to report a portion of the daily business receipts.
  2. Claims for fictitious or improper deductions on a return such as a sales representative's substantial overstatement of travel expenses or a taxpayer's claim of a large deduction for charitable contributions when no verification exists.
  3. Accounting irregularities such as a business's failure to keep adequate records or a discrepancy between amounts reported on a corporation's return and amounts reported on its financial statements.
  4. Improper allocation of income to a related taxpayer who is in a lower tax bracket such as where a corporation makes distributions to the controlling shareholder's children.
Tax Planning Strategies Countless tax planning strategies are available to small business owners. Some are aimed at the owner's individual tax situation and some at the business itself, but regardless of how simple or how complex a tax strategy is, it will be based on structuring the strategy to accomplish one or more of these often overlapping goals:
  • Reducing the amount of taxable income
  • Lowering your tax rate
  • Controlling the time when the tax must be paid
  • Claiming any available tax credits
  • Controlling the effects of the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Avoiding the most common tax planning mistakes
In order to plan effectively, you'll need to estimate your personal and business income for the next few years. This is necessary because many tax planning strategies will save tax dollars at one income level, but will create a larger tax bill at other income levels. You will want to avoid having the "right" tax plan made "wrong" by erroneous income projections. Once you know what your approximate income will be, you can take the next step: estimating your tax bracket. The effort to come up with crystal-ball estimates may be difficult and by its very nature will be inexact. On the other hand, you should already be projecting your sales revenues, income, and cash flow for general business planning purposes. The better your estimates are, the better the odds that your tax planning efforts will succeed. Maximizing Business Entertainment Expenses Entertainment expenses are legitimate deductions that can lower your tax bill and save you money, provided you follow certain guidelines. In order to qualify as a deduction, business must be discussed before, during, or after the meal and the surroundings must be conducive to a business discussion. For instance, a small, quiet restaurant would be an ideal location for a business dinner. A nightclub would not. Be careful of locations that include ongoing floor shows or other distracting events that inhibit business discussions. Prime distractions are theater locations, ski trips, golf courses, sports events, and hunting trips. The IRS allows up to a 50 percent deduction on entertainment expenses, but you must keep good records and the business meal must be arranged with the purpose of conducting specific business. For more information on this topic see Deducting Travel and Entertainment Expenses, below. Important Business Automobile Deductions If you use your car for business such as visiting clients or going to business meetings away from your regular workplace you may be able to take certain deductions for the cost of operating and maintaining your vehicle. You can deduct car expenses by taking either the standard mileage rate or using actual expenses. The mileage reimbursement rate for 2017 is 53.5 cents per business mile. If you own two cars, another way to increase deductions is to include both cars in your deductions. This works because business miles driven is determined by business use. To figure business use, divide the business miles driven by the total miles driven. This strategy can result in significant deductions. Whichever method you decide to use to take the deduction, always be sure to keep accurate records such as a mileage log and receipts. If you need assistance figuring out which method is best for your business, don't hesitate to contact the office. Increase Your Bottom Line When You Work At Home The home office deduction is quite possibly one of the most difficult deductions ever to come around the block. Yet, there are so many tax advantages it becomes worth the navigational trouble. Here are a few common tips for home office deductions that can make tax season significantly less traumatic for those of you with a home office. Try prominently displaying your home business phone number and address on business cards, have business guests sign a guest log book when they visit your office, deduct long-distance phone charges, keep a time and work activity log, retain receipts and paid invoices. Keeping these receipts makes it so much easier to determine percentages of deductions later on in the year. Section 179 expensing for tax year 2017 allows you to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate over time, up to $510,000, with a cap of $2,030,000 worth of qualified business property that you purchase during the year. The key word is "purchase." Equipment can be new or used and includes certain software. Generally, depreciable equipment for a home office meets the qualification. Some deductions can be taken whether or not you qualify for the home office deduction itself. It's never too early to meet with a tax professional to learn more about home office deductions. Call today to schedule a consultation. Go to top

Five Things to know before Starting a Business

Starting a new business is an exciting, but busy time with so much to be done and so little time to do it in. And, if you expect to have employees, there are a variety of federal and state forms and applications that will need to be completed to get your business up and running. That's where a tax professional can help. Employer Identification Number (EIN)  Securing an Employer Identification Number (also known as a Federal