Identity Theft and Your Taxes
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. It presents challenges to individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies, including the IRS.
Learning that you are a victim of identity theft can be a stressful event and you may not be aware that someone has stolen your identity. In many cases, the IRS may be the first to let you know you’re a victim of ID theft after you try to file your taxes.
The IRS is working hard to stop identity theft using a strategy of prevention, detection, and victim assistance. In 2015, the IRS stopped 1.4 million confirmed ID theft returns and protected $8.7 billion. In the past couple of years, more than 2,000 people have been convicted of filing fraudulent ID theft returns. And, in 2014, the IRS stopped more than $15 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft. Additionally, as the IRS improves its processing filters, the agency has also been able to halt more suspicious returns before they are processed.
Here’s what you should know about identity theft:
1. Protect your Records. Do not carry your Social Security card or other documents with your SSN on them. Only provide your SSN (social Security Number) if it’s necessary and you know the person requesting it. Protect your personal information at home and protect your computers with anti-spam and anti-virus software. Routinely change passwords for all of your Internet accounts.
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. Correspondence from the IRS is always in the form of a letter in the mail. The IRS will not call you threatening a lawsuit, arrest, or to demand an immediate tax payment using a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
As schools around the nation re-open, it is important for taxpayers to be particularly aware of a new scam going after students and parents. In this latest scheme, telephone scammers have been targeting students and parents and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”
People should be on the lookout for IRS impersonators calling students and demanding that they wire money immediately to pay a fake “federal student tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.
4. Report ID Theft to Law Enforcement. If you cannot e-file your return because a tax return already was filed using your SSN, consider the following steps:
- File your taxes by paper and pay any taxes owed.
- File an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. Print the form and mail or fax it according to the instructions. You may include it with your paper return.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your account.
5. Complete an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit. Once you’ve filed a police report, file an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit (see below). Print 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 SSN, it may send you a letter asking you to verify your identity by calling a special number or visiting 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 Options. Information about tax-related identity theft is available online at IRS.gov. The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov devoted to identity theft and a phone number available for victims to obtain assistance.
If you have any questions about identity theft and your taxes, don’t hesitate to call the office for assistance.
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:
- Deduct the actual business-related costs of gas, oil, lubrication, repairs, tires, supplies, parking, tolls, drivers’ salaries, and depreciation.
- Use the standard mileage deduction in 2016 and simply multiply 54 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.
How to Make Tax Time Easier
Keep careful records of your travel expenses and record your mileage in a logbook. If you don’t know the number of miles driven and the total amount you spent on the car, 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 2 percent of adjusted gross income.
Call today and find out which deduction method is best for your business-use car.
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 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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. In 2016, the mileage reimbursement rate is 54 cents per business mile (57 cents per mile in 2015).
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 2016 allows you to immediately deduct, rather than depreciate over time, up to $500,000, with a cap of $2,000,000 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.
If you’re ready to meet with a tax professional to discuss tax planning strategies for your business, call the office today.
Small Business: Deductions 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.
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 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 2016, each partner can claim a $500 charitable deductions on his or her 2016 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 are similar to Partnerships, with each shareholder receiving a Schedule K-1 showing the amount of charitable contribution.
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 acknowledgement letter for donations of $250 or more.
If you’re a small business owner, don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about charitable donations.
Tax Records: Which Ones to Toss and When
Now is a great time to clean out that growing mountain of financial papers and tax documents that clutter your home and office. Here’s what you need to keep and what you can throw out.
Let’s start with your “safety zone,” the IRS statute of limitations. This limits the number of years during which the IRS can audit your tax returns. Once that period has expired, the IRS is legally prohibited from even asking you questions about those returns.
The concept behind it is that after a period of years, records are lost or misplaced, and memory isn’t as accurate as we would hope. There’s a need for finality. Once the statute of limitations has expired, the IRS can’t go after you for additional taxes, but you can’t go after the IRS for additional refunds, either.
The Three-Year Rule
For assessment of additional taxes, the statute of limitation runs generally three years from the date you file your return. If you’re looking for an additional refund, the limitations period is generally the later of three years from the date you filed the original return or two years from the date you paid the tax. There are some exceptions:
- If you don’t report all your income, and the unreported amount is more than 25 percent of the gross income actually shown on your return, the limitation period is six years.
- If you’ve claimed a loss from a worthless security, the limitation period is extended to seven years.
- If you file a “fraudulent” return or don’t file at all, the limitations period doesn’t apply. In fact, the IRS can go after you at any time.
- If you’re deciding what records you need or want to keep, you have to ask what your chances are of an audit. A tax audit is an IRS verification of items of income and deductions on your return. So you should keep records to support those items until the statute of limitations runs out.
Assuming that you’ve filed on time and paid what you should, you only have to keep your tax records for three years, but some records have to be kept longer than that.
Remember, the three-year rule relates to the information on your tax return. But, some of that information may relate to transactions more than three years old.
Here’s a checklist of the documents you should hold on to:
- Capital gains and losses. Your gain is reduced by your basis – your cost (including all commissions) plus, with mutual funds, any reinvested dividends, and capital gains. But you may have bought that stock five years ago, and you’ve been reinvesting those dividends and capital gains over the last decade. And don’t forget those stock splits.
You don’t ever want to throw these records away until after you sell the securities. And then if you’re audited, you’ll have to prove those numbers. Therefore, you’ll need to keep those records for at least three years after you file the return reporting their sales.
- Expenses on your home. Cost records for your house and any improvements should be kept until the home is sold. It’s just good practice, even though most homeowners won’t face any tax problems. That’s because profit of less than $250,000 on your home ($500,000 on a joint return) isn’t subject to capital gains tax.
If the profit is more than $250,000 ($500,000 joint filers) or if you don’t qualify for the full gain exclusion, then you’re going to need those records for another three years after that return is filed. Most homeowners probably won’t face that issue, but of course, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Business records. Business records can become a nightmare. Non-residential real property is depreciated over a period of 39 years. You could be audited on the depreciation up to three years after you file the return for the 39th year. That’s a long time to hold onto receipts, but you may need to validate those numbers.
- Employment, bank, and brokerage statements. Keep all your W-2s, 1099s, brokerage, and bank statements to prove income until three years after you file. And don’t even think about dumping checks, receipts, mileage logs, tax diaries, and other documentation that substantiate your expenses.
- Tax returns. Keep copies of your tax returns as well. You can’t rely on the IRS to actually have a copy of your old returns. As a general rule, you should keep tax records for six years. The bottom line is that you’ve got to keep those records until they can no longer affect your tax return, plus the three-year statute of limitations.
- Social Security records. You will need to keep some records for Social Security purposes, so check with the Social Security Administration each year to confirm that your payments have been appropriately credited. If they’re wrong, you’ll need your W-2 or copies of your Schedule C (if self-employed) to prove the right amount. Don’t dispose of those records until after you’ve validated those contributions.
Contact the office by phone or email if you have any questions about which tax and financial records you need to keep this year.
Don’t Wait to File an Extended Return
If you filed for an extension of time to file your 2015 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 17, 2016, 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 2015 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 2017 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.
If you have any questions about filing an extended return, help is just a phone call away.
Renting Out Your Vacation Home
Renting out a vacation property to others can be profitable. If you do this, you must normally report the rental income on your tax return. You may not have to report the rent, however, if the rental period is short and you also use the property as your home. If you’re thinking about renting out your home, here are seven things to keep in mind:
1. Vacation Home. A vacation home can be a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat or similar property.
2. Schedule E. You usually report rental income and rental expenses on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss. Your rental income may also be subject to Net Investment Income Tax.
3. Used as a Home. If the property is “used as a home,” your rental expense deduction is limited. This means your deduction for rental expenses can’t be more than the rent you received. For more information about these rules, please call.
4. Divide Expenses. If you personally use your property and also rent it to others, special rules apply. You must divide your expenses between rental use and personal use. To figure how to divide your costs, you must compare the number of days for each type of use with the total days of use.
5. Personal Use. Personal use may include use by your family. It may also include use by any other property owners or their family. Use by anyone who pays less than a fair rental price is also considered personal use.
6. Schedule A. Report deductible expenses for personal use on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. These may include costs such as mortgage interest, property taxes, and casualty losses.
7. Rented Less than 15 Days. If the property is “used as a home” and you rent it out fewer than 15 days per year, you do not have to report the rental income. In this case, you deduct your qualified expenses on Schedule A.
Please call the office if you have any questions about renting out a vacation home.
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 2016, the annual exclusion is $14,000 (same as 2015).
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 2016, 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.
Bitcoins Treated as Property for Tax Purposes
Many retailers and online businesses now accept virtual currency for sales transactions. Despite IRS issuing a set of FAQs last year regarding virtual currency, the U.S. 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.
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: The Facts
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 ($51,800 in 2016 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 page.
Setting Up User Access in QuickBooks
If you’ve ever done your bookkeeping manually, you’ve probably only allowed certain employees to see every sales form and account register and payroll stub. Most likely, you established a system that allowed staff to work only with information that related to their jobs. Even so, there may have been times when, for example, someone pulled the wrong file folder or was sent a report that he or she shouldn’t have seen.
QuickBooks helps prevent this by setting virtual boundaries. You can specify which features of the software can be accessed by employees who work with your accounting data. Each employee receives a unique username and password that unlocks only the areas he or she should be visiting.
Figure 1: To help minimize errors, maintain data integrity, and preserve confidentiality, QuickBooks lets you restrict users to designated areas in the software.
Here’s how you as the Administrator can define these roles. Open the Company menu and select Set Up Users and Passwords | Set Up Users. The User List window opens. You should see yourself signed up as the Admin. Click Add User and enter a User Nameand Password for the employee you’re adding. Confirm the Password and check the box in front of Add this user to my QuickBooks license. Click Next.
Note: You can have as many as five people working in your QuickBooks company file at the same time, depending on how many user licenses you’ve purchased. Not sure? Press F2 and look in the upper left corner. If you need more than five user licenses, please call the office to find out about upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.
In the next window that opens (see above screen), you’ll be given three options. Probably you’ll most often select the second option, which lets you specify the screens this user can see and what he or she can do there. The first–All areas of QuickBooks–would seldom be granted. And the third allows us to come in and do whatever tasks have been outlined in our work relationship (troubleshooting, monitoring, creating and analyzing reports, etc.).
Click the button in front of Selected areas of QuickBooks and then Next. You’ll see the first in a series of screens that deal with the software’s functional areas: Sales and Accounts Receivable, Purchases and Accounts Payable, Checking and Credit Cards, Inventory, Time Tracking, Payroll and Employees, Sensitive Accounting Activities(funds transfers, online banking, etc.), Sensitive Financial Reporting, and Changing or Deleting Transactions.
Figure 2: When you give employees Selective Access in a particular area, you can further define their roles there.
The Sales and Accounts Receivable screen is a good example. You can see the options offered in the above image. By clicking on the buttons pictured, you’re giving this employee permission to both create and print transactions. Below these options, you’ll be able to keep him or her from seeing customers’ credit card numbers in their entirety by clicking in the small box. When you’re finished, click Next.
Keep clicking Next and proceed through the rest of the screens. Your choices will be similar on each. But be sure to read all of the descriptive text very carefully. Keep in mind the importance of confidentiality issues and security as you go along.
The ninth screen, Changing or Deleting Transactions, deserves special attention. First, should this employee be able to change or delete transactions in his or her assigned area(s)? Even though you trusted these employees to work with finances when you hired them, consider this question carefully. Depending on the volume of transactions processed every day, you may want to reserve this ability for yourself.
We may or may not have established and password-protected a Closing Date for your company file. This is the date when the books for a specific time frame have been “closed,” meaning that transactions should not be entered, added, or deleted prior to it. We can talk with you about the pros and cons of such an action.
Figure 3: A summary of user access rights
Here and on every other screen in this multi-step wizard, you can always click the Backbutton if you want to return to a previous window. When you’re finished, you’ll see a screen like the one in the above image that summarizes the choices you have just made.
If you’re feeling any uncertainty or confusion about the whole issue of access rights, please call to discuss your options. These are important decisions. You’ll want to stress to your employees that restricting their permissions does not signal a lack of your trust in them. Rather, QuickBooks provides these tools to protect everyone who uses the software as well as any external individuals and companies that might be affected.
Tax Due Dates for September 2016
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.
Individuals – Make a payment of your 2016 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 2016.
Corporations – File a 2015 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120 or 1120-A) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension.
S corporations – File a 2015 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.
Partnerships – File a 2015 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.
Corporations – Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2016. 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.
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