Paying off Debt the Smart Way
With a potential economic downturn in the wings due to COVID-19, being debt-free is a worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, between mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student loans, this is unrealistic for most people – especially those of pre-retirement age. Instead, it’s better to start by focusing on managing debt. When you handle debt wisely, you won’t have to shell out every cent of your hard-earned money to your lender or feel like you’re always on the verge of bankruptcy.
These tips will help you get started paying off debt the smart way and help you save extra money to pay down those debts even faster:
Assess the Situation
First, assess how much and what type of debt you have by writing it down using pencil and paper or entering the data into a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel. You can also use a bookkeeping program such as Quicken or a debt management app such as Debt Manager, Debt Payoff Planner or if you are only concerned about student loan debt, Changed. When compiling or entering your list be sure to Include every instance you can think of where a company has given you something in advance of payment such as your mortgage, car payment(s), credit cards (all of them), tax liens, student loans, PayPal Credit, and store payments or cards used on electronics or other household items such as Home Depot or Best Buy.
Record the day the debt began and when it will end (check your credit card statements), the interest rate you’re paying, and what your payments typically are. Next, as painful as that might be, add it all up – try not to be discouraged. Remember, the goal is to break this down into manageable chunks while finding extra money to help pay it down.
If you’re one of the millions of people who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, many auto and student loan lenders, as well as mortgage and credit card issuers are offering temporary concessions. Before you make any payments call or visit their websites to see what their policies are during the pandemic and whether there are options for deferral and other measures you can take.
Identify High-Cost Debt
Even if you haven’t lost your job or experienced sickness related to COVID-19, it never hurts to identify which debt is more expensive than others and pay it off first. Unless you’re getting a payday loan – which you shouldn’t be – the worst offender is consumer debt such as personal loans, auto loans, and credit cards with high-interest rates. Credit cards are easiest to tackle so start with them first. Here’s how to deal with them:
- Don’t use them. You don’t have to cut them up, but take them out of your wallet, put them in a drawer, and only access the one with the lowest interest rate in an emergency.
- Identify the card with the highest interest and pay off as much as you can every month and pay the minimum amount due on other cards. When that one is paid off, work on the card with the next highest rate.
Check your credit cards for balance transfer rates and transfer balances from higher interest accounts to a lower interest one. When you pay less interest, you can pay down your debt faster. The catch is that at the end of the balance transfer period (typically 6 to 12 months), the low or if you’re lucky, zero interest rate, reverts to a higher credit card interest rate.
- Don’t close existing cards or open any new ones. It won’t help your credit rating, and in fact, will only hurt it.
- Pay on time, absolutely every time. Late payments – even one – can lower your FICO score.
- Go over your credit card statements in detail and look for monthly charges for things you no longer use or don’t need anymore.
- Call your credit card companies and ask them nicely if they would lower your interest rates – sometimes it works!
Save, Save, Save
Do whatever you can to retire debt – even if it means reevaluating your priorities and changing your lifestyle. Consider taking a second job and using that income only for higher payments on your financial obligations. Substitute free family activities for high-cost ones. Sell high-value items that you can live without.
Do Away with Unnecessary Items to Reduce Debt Load
Think twice before purchasing the latest high-tech gadgets. Do you need the latest iPhone? You’ll be surprised at what you don’t miss. Consider buying a used car, forgoing that expensive gym membership you don’t have time to use anymore, visiting the public library to check out DVDs or subscribing to a video streaming company instead of going to the movies – at least until your debt is under control.
Never, Ever Miss a Payment
Not only are you retiring debt, but you’re also building a stellar credit rating. If you ever get another job, buy a house, rent an apartment, or buy another car, you’ll want to have the best credit rating possible. A blemish-free payment record will help with that. Besides, credit card companies can be quick to raise interest rates because of one late payment and a completely missed one is even more serious.
Pay with Cash
To avoid increasing debt load, make it a habit to pay for everything you purchase with cash or a debit/credit card. If you don’t have the cash (or the money in your bank account) for it, you probably don’t need it. You’ll feel better about what you do have if you know it’s owned free and clear.
Shop Wisely, and Use the Savings to Pay Down Your Debt
If your family is large enough to warrant it, invest $45 to $60 and join a store like Sam’s or Costco – and use it. Shop there first, then at the grocery store. Change brands if you have to and swallow your pride. If you’re concerned about buying organic, rest assured that even at places like Costco you will have many options. Use coupons and store savings clubs religiously. Calculate the money you’re saving and use it to pay down debt. Remember, every penny counts, and even if it’s a small amount every month, consistently saving adds up over time.
While each of these steps, taken alone, probably doesn’t seem like much, if you adopt as many as you can, you’ll see your debt decrease every month. If you need help managing debt or need advice regarding steps you can take to recession-proof your finances, help is just a phone call away.
Small Business Financing: Securing a Loan
At some point, most small business 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 a loan for expansion or scrambling to find 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 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 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.
Building a favorable climate for a loan request should begin long before the funds are 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/or are incapable of planning for your firm’s needs.
What to Do Before You Apply for a Loan
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. Also, 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 a tax and accounting professional are invaluable. Don’t be shy about calling the office with any questions or to request a consultation.
July 15 Deadline for Reporting Foreign Income
If you live or work 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. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people who live and work abroad have until Wednesday, July 15, 2020, to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due. The deadline is normally June 15.
This extension was included in a wide range of Coronavirus-related relief announced in early April. The extension generally applies to all taxpayers who have an income tax filing or payment deadline falling on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020. Anyone, including Americans who live and work abroad, nonresident aliens and foreign entities with a U.S. filing and payment requirement, have until July 15 to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due.
Also, 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.”
FBAR is not a tax form. Normally, it is due to the Treasury Department by April 15; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is an automatic extension to October 15, 2020. Form FinCen114 must be filed electronically through the BSA E-Filing System website. The BSA E-Filing System supports electronic filing of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) forms (either individually or in batches) through a FinCEN secure network.FATCA (Form 8938) is submitted on the tax due date (including extensions, if any) of your income tax return, which in 2020, is due on July 15th (October 15th with an extension).
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. Any income received, or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. tax return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars. Both FinCen Form 114 and IRS Form 8938, require the use of a December 31 exchange rate for all transactions, regardless of the actual exchange rate on the date of the transaction. Generally, the IRS accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently.
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 do not file the FBAR with individual, business, trust or estate tax returns. Instead, taxpayers with foreign accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2019 (or in 2020 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”).
The deadline for filing the FBAR is the same as for a federal income tax return and must be filed electronically with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by April 15, 2020; however, as mentioned above, due to COVID-19, there is an automatic extension to October 15, 2020. FinCEN grants filers who missed the April 15 deadline are also granted an automatic extension until October 15, 2020, to file the FBAR.
Taxpayers who want to paper-file their FBAR must call the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Regulatory Helpline to request an exemption from e-filing.
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 exempt, and what information to provide.
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 $105,900 of their wages and other foreign earned income they received in 2019 ($107,600 in 2020). 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. Requesting an Extension. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request a filing extension to October 15 by filling out Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Businesses that need additional time to file income tax returns must file Form 7004, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns.
7. Combat Zone Extension. Members of the military qualify for an additional extension of at least 180 days to file and pay taxes in certain situations. Deadlines are also extended for individuals serving in a combat zone or a contingency operation in support of the Armed Forces. This applies to Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents, and civilian personnel acting under the direction of the Armed Forces in support of those forces. Spouses of individuals who served in a combat zone or contingency operation are generally entitled to the same deadline extensions with some exceptions.
Help is just a phone call away.
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.
Here’s How to Pay If You Owe Money to the IRS
The federal tax deadline is quickly approaching. If you owe money to the IRS – including estimated and other business taxes – here are six options for quick and easy electronic payments:
Taxpayers who owe a 2019 income tax liability, as well as estimated tax for 2020, must make two separate payments on or by July 15, 2020 – one for their 2019 income tax liability and one for their 2020 estimated tax payments. The two estimated tax payments (originally due April 15 and June 15), however, can be combined into a single payment.
- Electronic Funds Withdrawal (EFW). This option allows taxpayers to file and pay electronically from their bank account when using tax preparation software or a tax professional. EFW is free and only available when electronically filing a tax return.
- Direct Pay. Direct Pay is free and allows taxpayers to securely pay their federal taxes directly from their checking or savings account without any fees or preregistration. Taxpayers can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance. After submitting a payment through Direct Pay, taxpayers will receive immediate confirmation. They can opt-in to receive email notifications about their payments each time they use Direct Pay.
- Credit, Debit Card or digital wallet. Pay online, by phone, or with a mobile device through any of the authorized payment processors. The processor charges a fee. The IRS doesn’t receive any fees for these payments. Go to IRS.gov/payments for authorized card processors and phone numbers.
- IRS2Go. The IRS2Go mobile app is free and offers taxpayers the option to make a payment with Direct Pay for free, or by debit, credit card, or digital wallet through an approved payment processor for a fee. Download IRS2Go free from Google Play, the Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
- Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. This free service gives taxpayers a safe and convenient way to pay individual and business taxes by phone or online. To enroll and for more information, call 800-555-4477 or visit eftps.gov. Both business and individual taxpayers can opt-in to receive email notifications about their payments.
- Cash. Taxpayers paying with cash can use the PayNearMe option. Payments are limited to $1,000 per day, and a $3.99 fee applies to each payment. Taxpayers choosing this option should start earlier rather than later because PayNearMe involves a four-step process. Initiating a payment well ahead of the tax deadline will help taxpayers avoid interest and penalty charges. The IRS offers this option in cooperation with OfficialPayments and participating retail stores. Details, including answers to frequently asked questions, are at IRS.gov/paywithcash.
As a reminder, taxpayers must file their 2019 tax returns by July 15, 2020, or request a three-month extension to October 15, 2020. Any taxes owed, however, are still due on July 15 and even if they can’t pay, taxpayers should still file an extension to avoid the higher penalties for not filing at all.
Q & A: Returning an Economic Impact Payment
According to the Treasury Department, more than 159 million individuals have already received their Economic Impact Payments; however, a recent audit found that the IRS sent $1.4 billion in stimulus checks to deceased individuals. As such, many people may have received a payment for a deceased family member or another taxpayer who is not eligible to receive a payment and may have questions about what to do. Here are some answers:
Q: How should an individual return an Economic Impact Payment?
Mail the payment to the correct IRS mailing address listed on the Economic Impact Payment Information Center page at IRS.gov. The mailing address is based on the state that the person lives in and may be different from where you send your tax forms and payments.
Q: What if a payment was received for someone who has died?
A payment made to someone who died before they received the payment should be returned to the IRS. Return the entire payment unless the check was made out to joint filers and one spouse is still living. In that case, return half the payment, but not more than $1,200.
If someone can’t deposit a check because it was issued to both spouses and one spouse has died, the individual should return the check. Once the IRS receives and processes the returned payment, an Economic Impact Payment will be reissued to the surviving spouse.
Q: What if the paper check was not cashed or deposited?
If the paper check was not cashed or deposited take the following steps:
- Write Void in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
- Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location.
- Don’t staple, bend or paper clip the check.
- Include a brief explanation of why they return the check.
Q: How should a direct deposit payment or a paper check that was already cashed or deposited be returned?
In this case, mail a personal check, money order, etc., to the appropriate IRS location. Visit the Economic Impact Payment Information Center on IRS.gov or call the office if you aren’t sure where to send the payment.
Make the check or money order payable to the U.S. Treasury and write 2020 EIP, as well as the taxpayer identification number, Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number of the person whose name is on the check. A brief explanation of why the Economic Impact Payment is being returned should also be included.
If you received your EIP as a debit card and want to return the money to the IRS and NOT have the payment re-issued, please visit the Economic Impact Payment Information Center on IRS.gov or call the office for assistance as there are specific instructions.
Tax Tips for Students With a Summer Job
Whether the goal is to gain experience or earn some spending money or help pay for college, summer is the prime job season for teens and college students. This year, however, with the coronavirus pandemic, the job situation has not been as easy – not to mention that it is starting later than usual. Nonetheless, if you are a high school or college student (or the parent of one) who has been lucky enough to find summer employment, here’s what you should know about income earned during the summer months
- All new employees 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. Taxpayers 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. Form W-4 was revised for 2020. If you have questions about how to fill out this form, don’t hesitate to call.
- From pet sitting to mowing lawns and pulling weeds, many students do odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash. If this is your situation, keep in mind that the earnings you receive from self-employment are subject to income tax.
- Net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment is taxable, as is church employee income of $108.28 and is reported on Form 1040, Schedule SE. 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.
- If you hire your child under age 18 to work in a trade or business you own, he or she is not subject to social security and Medicare taxes if it is a sole proprietorship or a partnership in which each partner is a parent of the child. Payments for the services of a child under age 21 who works for his or her parent in a trade or business are not subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. However, payment for the services of a child are subject to income tax withholding, regardless of age, but only to the extent that the amount paid exceeds the standard deduction amount for the year, which in 2020 is $12,400.
- When you work in some jobs such as a waiter, valet, or even a camp counselor, you may receive tips as part of your summer income. You should be aware that tips are considered taxable income and subject to federal income tax. Employees should keep a daily log to accurately report tips and they must report cash tips to their employer for any month that totals $20 or more.
- While some students may earn too little from their summer job to owe income tax, employers usually must still withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from their pay. This tax pays for your future benefits under the Social Security system.
- Subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pays such as pay received during summer advanced camp is taxable.
- Special rules apply to services you perform as a newspaper carrier or distributor. Please call the office if you’d like more information about this.
Summer work for students can be a patchwork of odd jobs, which makes for confusion at tax time. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions at all about income earned from a summer job.
Employee Retention Credit Deadline July 31
As a reminder, employers whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19 can take advantage of the Employee Retention Credit, a refundable tax credit designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The credit is worth 50 percent of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an employer. Employers that are eligible for the credit for the first and second quarters of 2020, can apply for the credit when they file their second-quarter filing of Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Returnwhich is due July 31.
The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses that make small business loans. Qualifying wages are based on the average number of a business’s employees in 2019 and are divided into employers with fewer than 100 employees and employers with more than 100 employees.
When employers report their qualified wages on Form 941, they can reduce their required deposits of payroll taxes withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit. Eligible employers also may use the employee retention credit with other relief including payroll tax deferral and can also request an advance of the employee retention credit by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19. Please call the office with any questions.
Retirement Accounts: Rollover Relief for RMDs
Generally, taxpayers must begin taking a required minimum distribution (RMD) from a defined-contribution retirement plan, including a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, or an IRA when they reach age 72 (70 1/2 if they reached 70 ½ before January 1, 2020). The RMD for any year is the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s “Uniform Lifetime Table” and is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your account each year.
The CARES Act, however, allowed taxpayers with an RMD due in 2020, to skip any RMDs this year. This includes anyone who turned age 70 1/2 in 2019 and would have had to take the first RMD by April 1, 2020.
This waiver does not apply to defined-benefit plans.
If you’ve already taken out a required minimum distribution (RMD) this year (2020) from a retirement account you now have the opportunity to roll those funds back into a retirement account, thanks to the CARES Act RMD waiver for 2020. Furthermore, the 60-day rollover period for any RMDs already taken this year has been extended to August 31, 2020, to give taxpayers time to take advantage of this opportunity.
In addition to the rollover opportunity, an IRA owner or beneficiary who has already received a distribution from an IRA of an amount that would have been an RMD in 2020 can repay the distribution to the IRA by August 31, 2020.
This repayment is not subject to the one rollover per 12-month period limitation and the restriction on rollovers for inherited IRAs.
As always, don’t hesitate to call the office with any questions.
Reporting Farm Income and Expenses
Farms include plantations, ranches, ranges and orchards and farmers may raise livestock, poultry or fish, or grow fruits or vegetables. If you’re in the farming business or are thinking about it, here are ten things you should know about farm income and expenses.
1. Crop insurance proceeds. Insurance payments from crop damage count as income. Generally, you should report these payments in the year you get them.
2. Deductible farm expenses. Farmers can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses they paid for their business. An ordinary expense is a common and accepted cost for that type of business. A necessary expense means a cost that is appropriate for that business.
3. Employees and hired help. You can deduct reasonable wages you paid to your farm’s full and part-time workers. You must withhold Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes from their wages.
4. Sale of items purchased for resale. If you sold livestock or items that you bought for resale; you must report the sale. Your profit or loss is the difference between your selling price and your basis in the item. The basis is usually the cost of the item. Your cost may also include other amounts you paid such as sales tax and freight.
5. Repayment of loans. You can only deduct the interest you paid on a loan if the loan is used for your farming business. You can’t deduct interest you paid on a loan that you used for personal expenses.
6. Weather-related sales. Bad weather such as a drought or flood may force you to sell more livestock than you normally would in a year. If so, you may be able to delay reporting a gain from the sale of the extra animals.
7. Net operating losses. If your expenses are more than income for the year, you may have a net operating loss. You can carry that loss over to other years and deduct it. You may get a refund of part or all of the income tax you paid in prior years. You may also be able to lower your tax in future years.
8. Farm income averaging. You may be able to average some or all of the current year’s farm income by spreading it out over the past three years. This may lower your taxes if your farm income is high in the current year and low in one or more of the past three years.
9. Fuel and road use. You may be able to claim a tax credit or refund of excise taxes you paid on fuel used on your farm for farming purposes.
10. Farmers Tax Guide. Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide, is a useful resource that you can obtain from the IRS. However, if you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to call today and get the tax benefits you deserve.
Closing Your Business: A Tax Checklist
More than 100,000 small businesses have closed due to COVID-19. If yours is one of them, you should be aware that there is more to closing a business than laying off employees, selling office furniture, and closing the doors – you must also take certain actions as required by the IRS to fulfill your tax obligations. For example, if you have employees, you must file final employment tax returns as well as make final federal tax deposits of these taxes.
You must also file an annual tax return for the year you go out of business. You also need to attach a statement to your return listing the name and address of the person that keeps the payroll records (this could be you or another person). If you are disposing of business property, exchanging like-kind property, and/or changing the form of your business, you must file a return to report these actions.
Depending on your type of business structure, you may need to take the some or all of the following steps:
- File final federal tax deposits
- File final quarterly or annual employment tax form (Forms 94x)
- Issue final wage and withholding information to employees (Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
- Report information from W-2s issued (Form W-3, Transmittal of Income and Tax Statements)
- File final tip income and allocated tips information return (Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips)
- Report capital gains or losses
- Report partner’s/shareholder’s shares (Schedules K-1)
- File final employee pension/benefit plan
- Issue payment information to sub-contractors (Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income)
- Report information from 1099s issued Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns)
- Report corporate dissolution or liquidation
- Consider allowing S corporation election to terminate
- Report business asset sales
- Report the sale or exchange of property used in your trade or business.
If you find yourself in the position of having to close your business, help is just a phone call away.
Make QuickBooks Yours: Customize the Desktop
If your business has been locked down because of the pandemic, or you are scrambling to hold things together with fewer employees or diminishing sales, you may be depending on QuickBooks more than ever. Whether you’re keeping an eye on dwindling inventory, closely monitoring your daily cash flow, or trying to collect on invoices that aren’t being paid because your customers are short on money, QuickBooks can help.
Getting Around Quickly
Customizing QuickBooks and streamlining its operations will take some of the unnecessary frustration out of your work life by accommodating different work styles and preferences as well as providing multiple navigation methods such as:
- The old, standard Windows menus.
- The home page’s icons.
- The Icon Bar that appears in the left vertical pane by default (you change its position by opening the View menu).
If you’re going to use the Icon Bar, make sure you set it up to prominently display your most often-used tools. You can do this by right-clicking in the toolbar and then clicking on Customize Shortcuts to open the Customize Icon Bar window. In the upper left corner, you’ll see a list of your icons as they’re currently arranged. You can rearrange them by grabbing the small diamonds to their left with your mouse and dragging them to their new positions. You can change their labels by clicking Edit, or Delete them.
Figure 1: You can add almost any window in QuickBooks to your fast-access Icon Bar.
You’re not limited to the items on the list. Click Add, and the Add Icon Bar Item opens, as pictured above. Click on any of the ones you want to include in the Icon Bar, then click OK. QuickBooks allows you to add almost any screen to your Icon Bar. Navigate to the window you want to add, then open the View menu and select Add…to Icon Bar. If you never use the Icon Bar, you can collapse it by clicking the small arrow to the right of the Search box at the top of the pane. You can also close the home page by clicking the lower of the two small X’s in the upper right.
Tile Your Windows
If you regularly work with the same handful of screens, there’s a faster way to access them. Open them all, then open the Window menu and select Tile Vertically. All the windows will be displayed on the same screen, arranged vertically. If there are enough of them, they will overlap. To activate one, just click on it. You can open it to full screen by clicking the small rectangle in the upper right and return to your vertical arrangement by clicking the double rectangle in the upper right.
If you prefer, you can Tile Horizontally. Or, you can click Cascade to display them stacked on top of each other with only each window’s title label showing, as shown below. If you want to go back to a blank screen and start over, click Window | Close All. The Window menu also displays a list of open windows that can be used for navigation.
Figure 2: If you click Window | Cascade with multiple windows open, QuickBooks will stack them, with only the bottom screen showing. Click on a title label to open a different window.
The Desktop View
There are other ways you can make QuickBooks work the way you want it to. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Desktop View. Click on the My Preferences tab if it’s not already highlighted. There are several preferences here. Look under the Desktop heading. You can have QuickBooks open to the configuration of Windows you want. Your options are:
- Save [the windows that are already open] when closing company.
- Save current desktop (a specific set of windows).
- Don’t save the desktop (always open to just the home page).
Click the Company Preferences tab to add or remove icons from the home page. This is also where you turn features on and off.
Still Here and Ready to Help
While these suggestions may seem minor, they will save time. More importantly, they will give you a better sense of control over the hours you spend on accounting tasks, and with so many things out of our control right now, creating a software environment that is tailored to your workflow can benefit you.
You may be struggling right now to maintain your financial as well as physical health. More than ever, don’t hesitate to contact the office for assistance if you have a QuickBooks or general accounting problem to solve during this challenging period.
Tax Due Dates for July 2020
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.
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.
Individuals – File an income tax return for 2019 (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 3-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and pay what you estimate you owe in tax to avoid penalties and interest. Then file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR by October 15.
Household Employers – If you paid cash wages of $2,100 or more in 2019 to a household employee, file Schedule H (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) with your income tax return and report any employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2018 or 2019 to household employees.
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 or Form 1040-SR and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. If you want additional time to file your return, file Form 4868 to obtain 3 additional months to file. Then file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR by October 15.
However, if you are a participant in a combat zone you may be able to further extend the filing deadline.
Individuals – If you are not paying your 2020 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2020 estimated tax. Use Form 1040-ES.
Individuals – Make a payment of your 2020 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 second installment date for estimated tax in 2020.
Corporations – File a 2019 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 3-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 2020. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year.
Corporations – Deposit the second installment of estimated income tax for 2020. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year.
Employers – Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2020. 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 2019. 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 2020 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter.
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