The sudden onset of the pandemic in 2020 triggered a mental health crisis that has affected people everywhere. By extension, it has touched employees of many, if not most, organizations. Employers have generally ramped up mental health benefits in response over the last few years or, at the very least, become more aware of their importance.
If your organization’s benefits package includes mental health resources, it’s a good idea to check in on whether your employees are using them and if you should revise or add to your offerings.
A recent study illustrates a common conundrum regarding mental health benefits. That is, though the resources are there, employees just aren’t widely accessing them. Membership-based primary care provider One Medical recently surveyed 800 HR/benefits organizational leaders, as well as 800 full-time employees, and reported the results in its The State of Workplace Health 2023 report.
The data showed that, while 61% of respondents took advantage of their “routine care” health benefits, only 19% used their mental health benefits. The survey asked employees why they chose not to access their employer-provided mental health resources and:
On the bright side, the study found that 26% of respondents said their mental health had improved in the last year, and 42% believed it had stayed the same. Then again, 32% reported that their mental health had declined since last year, though that is 2% less than the decline reported in 2022.
Benefits to consider
The cumulative message of all these data points is relatively clear: Employers can’t simply lay out a menu of mental health benefits and expect workers to partake. If you want to reap the morale, retention and productivity upsides of a well-cared-for staff, you’ve got to encourage participation through strong benefits education and communication.
Also, you may need to occasionally tweak your benefits selection to meet the distinctive and evolving needs of your workforce. Here are a few mental health benefits to consider:
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is a voluntary and confidential work-based intervention program designed to help employees and their dependent family members deal with issues that may be affecting their mental health and job performance. Such issues can include workplace stress, grief, depression, marriage/family problems, psychological disorders, and alcohol and drug dependency.
Revised paid time off (PTO) policies. Many employers are finding that the old “X number of vacation days and X number of sick days” approach lacks the flexibility employees need to care for themselves. Your staff may appreciate a bank of PTO that can be used for any purpose without question. Some employers are also adding “mental health days” to their lists of organizational holidays.
Trainings related to mental health. Employers are often in a unique position to teach groups of people to lessen behaviors that hurt mental health and emphasize behaviors that improve it. For example, stress management programs can train workers to recognize high-stress situations and better cope with them. Leadership training programs can help create leaders who communicate, coach and coordinate work more effectively, reducing everyone’s stress.
There can be a very real, positive bottom-line impact to helping employees care for their mental health. But it’s a challenge that calls for a high degree of awareness and a constant eye on necessary changes. Our firm can help you identify and analyze your benefits and training costs.
You may think you don’t need to make any estate planning moves because of the generous federal estate tax exemption of $12.92 million for 2023 (effectively $25.84 million if you’re married).
However, if you have significant assets, you should consider establishing a living trust to avoid probate. Probate is a court-supervised legal process intended to make sure a deceased person’s assets are properly distributed. However, going through probate typically means red tape, legal fees and your financial affairs becoming public information. You can avoid this with a living trust (also commonly called a family trust, grantor trust and revocable trust).
How they work
You establish the living trust and transfer legal ownership of assets for which you wish to avoid probate to it (such as your main home, a vacation property, antique furniture, etc.).
In the trust document, you name a trustee to be in charge of the trust’s assets after you die and specify which beneficiaries will get which assets.
You can be the trustee while you’re alive. After that, you can designate your attorney, CPA, adult child, sibling, faithful friend or financial institution to be the trustee.
Because a living trust is revocable, you can change its terms at any time, or even unwind it completely, while you’re alive and legally competent. That’s why it’s called a living trust.
For federal income tax purposes, the existence of the living trust is ignored while you’re alive. As far as the IRS is concerned, you still personally own the assets that are in the trust. So, you continue to report on your tax return any income generated by trust assets and any deductions related to those assets, such as mortgage interest on your home.
For state-law purposes, however, the living trust isn’t ignored. Done properly, it avoids probate. And that’s the goal.
When you die, the living trust assets are included in your estate for federal estate tax purposes. However, assets that go to your surviving spouse aren’t included in your estate, assuming your spouse is a U.S. citizen — thanks to the so-called unlimited marital deduction privilege.
As explained earlier, you probably don’t have to worry about a federal estate tax bill with today’s huge exemption. But the exemption is scheduled to go down drastically in 2026 unless Congress extends it. If Congress fails to do so, you may need to revisit your estate plan.
A living trust has several benefits, but mind these details or you won’t get the expected probate avoidance:
More planning may be needed
Living trusts do nothing to avoid or minimize the federal estate tax or state death taxes. If you have enough wealth to be exposed to these taxes, additional planning is required to reduce or eliminate them. Contact us for more information.
One popular fringe benefit is an education assistance program that allows employees to continue learning and perhaps earn a degree with financial assistance from their employers. One way to attract, retain and motivate employees is to provide education fringe benefits so that team members can improve their skills and gain additional knowledge. An employee can receive, on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250 each year from his or her employer under a “qualified educational assistance program.”
For this purpose, “education” means any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an individual’s capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s job-related or part of a degree program. This includes employer-provided education assistance for graduate-level courses, including those normally taken by individuals pursuing programs leading to a business, medical, law or other advanced academic or professional degrees.
The educational assistance must be provided under a separate written plan that’s publicized to your employees, and must meet a number of conditions, including nondiscrimination requirements. In other words, it can’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, not more than 5% of the amounts paid or incurred by the employer for educational assistance during the year may be provided for individuals (including their spouses or dependents) who own 5% or more of the business.
No deduction or credit can be taken by the employee for any amount excluded from the employee’s income as an education assistance benefit.
If you pay more than $5,250 for educational benefits for an employee during the year, he or she must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your business should include the amount in income in the employee’s wages. However, in addition to, or instead of applying the $5,250 exclusion, an employer can satisfy an employee’s educational expenses on a nontaxable basis, if the educational assistance is job-related. To qualify as job-related, the educational assistance must:
“Job-related” employer educational assistance isn’t subject to a dollar limit. To be job-related, the education can’t qualify the employee to meet the minimum educational requirements for qualification in his or her employment or other trade or business.
Educational assistance meeting the above “job-related” rules is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit.
Assistance with student loans
In addition to education assistance, some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a recruitment and retention tool. Starting next year, employers can help more. Under the SECURE 2.0 law, an employer will be able to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” The result of this provision is that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers. This will take effect in 2024.
Contact us to learn more about setting up an education assistance or student loan repayment plan at your business.
In recent years, many workers have become engaged in the “gig” economy. You may think of gig workers as those who deliver take-out restaurant meals, walk dogs and drive for ride-hailing services. But so-called gig work seems to be expanding. Today, some nurses have become gig workers and writers in Hollywood who recently went on strike have expressed concerns that screenwriting is becoming part of the gig economy.
There are tax consequences when performing jobs that don’t involve taxes being deducted from a regular paycheck. The bottom line: If you receive income from freelancing or from one of the online platforms offering goods and services, it’s generally taxable. That’s true even if the income comes from a side job and even if you don’t receive an income statement reporting the amount of money you made.
Gig worker basics
The IRS considers gig workers those who are independent contractors and conduct their jobs through online platforms. Examples include Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and DoorDash.
Unlike traditional employees, independent contractors don’t receive benefits associated with employment or employer-sponsored health insurance. They also aren’t covered by the minimum wage or other federal law protections and they aren’t part of states’ unemployment insurance systems. In addition, they’re on their own when it comes to retirement savings and taxes.
Make quarterly payments during the year
If you’re part of the gig or sharing economy, here are some tax considerations.
Maintain meticulous records
It’s important to keep good records tracking income and expenses in case you are audited by the IRS or state tax authorities. Contact us if you have questions about your tax obligations as a gig worker or the deductions you can claim. You don’t want to get an unwanted surprise when you file your tax return.
If you’re the owner of an incorporated business, you know there’s a tax advantage to taking money out of a C corporation as compensation rather than as dividends. The reason: A corporation can deduct the salaries and bonuses that it pays executives, but not dividend payments. Therefore, if funds are paid as dividends, they’re taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is only taxed once — to the employee who receives it.
However, there are limits to how much money you can take out of the corporation this way. Under tax law, compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it’s reasonable. Any unreasonable portion isn’t deductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. Keep in mind that the IRS is generally more interested in unreasonable compensation payments made to someone “related” to a corporation, such as a shareholder-employee or a member of a shareholder’s family.
Steps to help protect yourself
There’s no simple way to determine what’s reasonable. If the IRS audits your tax return, it will examine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under similar circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include the employee’s duties and the amount of time spent on those duties, as well as the employee’s skills, expertise and compensation history. Other factors that may be reviewed are the complexities of the business and its gross and net income.
There are four steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered “reasonable,” and therefore deductible by your corporation:
You can avoid problems and challenges by planning ahead. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about your situation.
Are you getting ready to retire? If so, you’ll soon experience changes in your lifestyle and income sources that may have numerous tax implications.
Here’s a brief rundown of four tax and financial issues you may contend with when you retire:
Taking required minimum distributions. These are the minimum amounts you must withdraw from your retirement accounts. You generally must start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SEP, SIMPLE and other retirement plan accounts when you reach age 73 if you were age 72 after December 31, 2022. If you reach age 72 in 2023, the required beginning date for your first RMD is April 1, 2025, for 2024. Roth IRAs don’t require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.
You can withdraw more than the minimum required amount. Your withdrawals will be included in your taxable income except for any part that was taxed before or that can be received tax-free (such as qualified distributions from Roth accounts).
Selling your principal residence. Many retirees want to downsize to smaller homes. If you’re one of them and you have a gain from the sale of your principal residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from your income. If you file a joint return, you may be able to exclude up to $500,000.
To claim the exclusion, you must meet certain requirements. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, you must have owned the home and lived in it as your main home for at least two years.
If you’re thinking of selling your home, make sure you’ve identified all items that should be included in its basis, which can save you tax.
Getting involved in new work activities. After retirement, many people continue to work as consultants or start new businesses. Here are some tax-related questions to ask if you’re launching a new venture:
Taking Social Security benefits. If you continue to work, it may have an impact on your Social Security benefits. If you retire before reaching full Social Security retirement age (65 years of age for people born before 1938, rising to 67 years of age for people born after 1959) and the sum of your wages plus self-employment income is over the Social Security annual exempt amount ($21,240 for 2023), you must give back $1 of Social Security benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.
If you reach full retirement age this year, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn over a different annual limit ($56,520 in 2023) until the month you reach full retirement age. Then, your earnings will no longer affect the amount of your monthly benefits, no matter how much you earn.
Speaking of Social Security, you may have to pay federal (and possibly state) tax on your benefits. Depending on how much income you have from other sources, you may have to report up to 85% of your benefits as income on your tax return and pay the resulting federal income tax.
Tax planning is still important
As you can see, you may have to make many decisions after you retire. We can help maximize the tax breaks you’re entitled to so you can keep more of your hard-earned money.
Businesses that operate in the retail or restaurant spheres have it relatively easy when it comes to collections. They generally take payments right at a point-of-sale terminal and customers go on their merry ways. (These enterprises face many other challenges, of course.)
For other types of companies, it’s not so easy. Collections can be particularly challenging for business-to-business (B2B) operations, which often find themselves in complex relationships with key customers that aren’t quite as simple as “pay up or hit the road.”
If your company is dealing with slow-paying customers, which is hardly uncommon in today’s inflationary environment where everyone is trying to preserve cash flow, sometimes it helps to review the basics. Here are six tried-and-true strategies for increasing your chances of getting paid one way or another:
1. Request payment up front. For new customers or those with a documented history of collections issues, you could start asking for a deposit on each order. This would generally be a small but noticeable percentage of the contract or order price. You could also explore the concept of asking for a service retainer fee. Although these are typically associated with law firms, other types of businesses may use them to cover all or part of the expected costs of services.
2. Charge fees. Most customers are likely familiar with the concept of late-payment fees from dealing with their credit card companies. Applying this same concept to your collections can pay off. Implement fees or finance charges for past due amounts. Place extremely delinquent accounts on credit hold or adjust their payment terms to cash on delivery.
3. Reward timely payments. An effective collections strategy isn’t only about “penalizing” slow-paying customers. It’s also about incentivizing those who pay on time or who represent a potentially lucrative long-term relationship. Crunch the numbers to determine the feasibility of giving discounts to customers with strong payment histories or to those who have improved the timeliness of payments over a given period.
4. Communicate proactively. Set up regular e-mail reminders and place live phone calls to customers who haven’t settled their accounts. If the employee who works directly with the customer can’t resolve payment issues, elevate the matter to a manager or even you, the business owner. In B2B relationships, it’s often helpful for the manager or business owner to contact someone higher up in the customer’s organization. If necessary, consider executing a promissory note to prevent the customer from disputing the charges in the future.
5. Get external help. If, after repeated tries, your collections efforts appear unlikely to bear fruit, you should start looking into getting help from someone outside your company. This typically means engaging either an attorney who specializes in debt collection or a collections agency. View this as a last resort, however, because third-party fees may consume much of the collected amount and you’re unlikely to continue doing business with the customer.
6. Claim a tax break. One last important point about collections: If an outstanding debt is uncollectible, you may be able to write it off as an ordinary business expense. Be sure to document each customer’s promises to pay, your collection efforts and why you believe the debt is worthless. Consult with us about claiming such tax deductions. We can also offer assistance in improving your overall accounts receivable processes.
If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you may wonder: What medical expenses can I include? The IRS recently issued some frequently asked questions addressing when certain costs are qualified medical expenses for federal income tax purposes.
Basic rules and IRS clarifications
You can claim an itemized deduction for qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. You can also take tax-free health savings account (HSA), health care flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) withdrawals to cover qualified medical expenses. However, qualified medical expenses don’t include those for things that are merely beneficial to your general health.
The answers to the IRS FAQs clarify the following points, starting with the ones we think are most interesting.
Count all eligible expenses
If you meet or are close to the threshold to deduct medical expenses, you want to count every one that’s eligible. Be sure to save documentation and we can evaluate expenses when we prepare your tax return.
Everyone is on social media these days, including businesses and their customers. This creates a natural — or shall we say virtual — nexus for companies to field questions, comments and complaints from buyers or those interested in their products or services.
In other words, whether companies realize it or not, customer service is happening online. It’s super convenient for the buying public, but a business can incur notable risks if, say, questions go unanswered or a negative interaction goes viral.
Pick your platform
Perhaps the worst thing you can do in providing customer service on social media is to leave it to chance. You and your leadership team should make a conscious decision about whether to engage. If you decide to move forward, you’ll need to specify: 1) what level of service to provide, and 2) on which platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and so forth) to provide it.
The second of those two points is a little easier to address. If you don’t know already, determine where most of your customers are on social media so you can focus your efforts on only that channel.
If you’ll be using more than one platform, you may want to invest in software that enables you to monitor multiple accounts. It’s generally best to deactivate any accounts you won’t be watching regularly or at least clarify that you won’t be providing customer service there.
Establish a policy
The first point noted above — what level of customer service to provide on social media — is the bigger and more pressing issue. Naturally, the answer will differ for every business depending on factors such as size, industry, mission and customer base. But there are some fundamental questions to consider.
For starters, who will provide customer service on social media? Again, you don’t want to take an ad hoc approach — assign specific employees the tasks of monitoring accounts and replying to questions and comments. Ideally, you’ll want to create a comprehensive social media policy that addresses points such as:
Also, how quickly will you respond? People generally expect quick replies on social media, which can be among the biggest challenges to providing customer service there. One potential solution is to set up a chatbot, powered by artificial intelligence, to transmit immediate responses to many inquiries. Chatbots are certainly quick, but they’re generally effective only for answering simple questions.
Last, should you set up a dedicated account for customer service? Many bigger companies have done so. It will simplify matters — you can post links to the account on your website and other social media channels to direct customers there. However, it will also mean you’re going “all in” and need to be fully staffed and prepared.
Identify the costs
Providing top-notch customer service on social media will likely entail some costs and reallocation of resources. As mentioned, you may need to invest in additional software as well as stronger cybersecurity measures. Training or upskilling staff may also be necessary — you might even want to hire new employees for this purpose. Contact us for help identifying these costs and setting a feasible budget for technology-related spending.
Consider the following scenario: To streamline administration of continuing health care coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), an employer decides to neither send bills for COBRA premiums nor provide reminders when premium payments are late. If qualified beneficiaries don’t pay their monthly premiums by the end of the grace period, COBRA coverage is cut off retroactively to the beginning of the month without warning. Would such actions comply with the mandated rules?
Although COBRA doesn’t require plans to send bills or premium payment reminders, some circumstances do require written communications. Most notably, plan administrators must provide a written notice of termination if a qualified beneficiary’s COBRA coverage terminates before the end of the maximum coverage period. This period is generally after 18 or 36 months, depending on the qualifying event that triggered the COBRA election.
An employer may terminate coverage before the end of the maximum coverage period for certain reasons specified in the COBRA statute, including a failure to timely pay premiums. When lawful termination occurs, each affected qualified beneficiary must receive a notice “written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant” that states:
Generally, this notice of termination must be furnished “as soon as practicable” following a decision to terminate COBRA coverage. Providing notice before coverage termination isn’t necessarily required. However, if a plan administrator can provide advanced notice under the “as soon as practicable” standard, it must do so.
Addresses and methods
If a covered employee and the employee’s spouse live at the same address, the plan administrator can provide one notice addressed to both. A notice to one covered employee or spouse satisfies the requirement with respect to a dependent child who lives with the person who received the notice.
On the other hand, if any of the qualified beneficiaries live at different addresses, and this fact is known to the plan administrator based on “the most recent information available to the plan,” separate notices must be provided.
Like other required COBRA notices, a notice of termination must be furnished using “measures reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt of the material.” Methods approved by the U.S. Department of Labor include traditional mail, hand delivery and electronic transmission. First-class mail is typically recommended.
Compliance is critical
Employers with 20 or more employees are generally required to offer COBRA coverage to departing staff members. As this is a federal law, it’s critical to comply with all applicable rules. Please contact us for help monitoring and managing the financial risks of offering health care benefits.
Once you file your 2022 tax return, you may wonder what personal tax papers you can throw away and how long you should retain certain records. You may have to produce those records if the IRS audits your return or seeks to assess tax.
It’s a good idea to keep the actual returns indefinitely. But what about supporting records such as receipts and canceled checks? In general, except in cases of fraud or substantial understatement of income, the IRS can only assess tax within three years after the return for that year was filed (or three years after the return was due). For example, if you filed your 2019 tax return by its original due date of April 15, 2020, the IRS has until April 15, 2023, to assess a tax deficiency against you. If you file late, the IRS generally has three years from the date you filed.
However, the assessment period is extended to six years if more than 25% of gross income is omitted from a return. In addition, if no return is filed, the IRS can assess tax any time. If the IRS claims you never filed a return for a particular year, a copy of the return will help prove you did.
The tax consequences of a transaction that occurs this year may depend on events that happened years ago. For example, suppose you bought your home in 2007, made capital improvements in 2014 and sold it this year. To determine the tax consequences of the sale, you must know your basis in the home — your original cost, plus later capital improvements. If you’re audited, you may have to produce records related to the purchase in 2007 and the capital improvements in 2014 to prove what your basis is. Therefore, those records should be kept until at least six years after filing your return for the year of sale.
Retain all records related to home purchases and improvements even if you expect your gain to be covered by the home-sale exclusion, which can be up to $500,000 for joint return filers. You’ll still need to prove the amount of your basis if the IRS inquires. Plus, there’s no telling what the home will be worth when it’s sold, and there’s no guarantee the home-sale exclusion will still be available in the future.
Other considerations apply to property that’s likely to be bought and sold — for example, stock or shares in a mutual fund. Remember that if you reinvest dividends to buy additional shares, each reinvestment is a separate purchase.
If you separate or divorce, be sure you have access to tax records affecting you that are kept by your spouse. Or better yet, make copies of the records since access to them may be difficult. Copies of all joint returns filed and supporting records are important, since both spouses are liable for tax on a joint return and a deficiency may be asserted against either spouse. Other important records include agreements or decrees over custody of children and any agreement about who is entitled to claim them as dependents.
Loss or destruction of records
To safeguard records against theft, fire, or other disaster, consider keeping important papers in a safe deposit box or other safe place outside your home. In addition, consider keeping copies in a single, easily accessible location so that you can grab them if you must leave your home in an emergency.
Contact us if you have any questions about record retention.
The IRS recently finalized regulations that substantially expand mandatory electronic filing (e-filing) of certain information returns. The regulations were proposed in 2021 to implement statutory changes made under the Taxpayer First Act of 2019. Generally, they establish lower thresholds for required e-filing of the following returns related to employee benefit plans:
Form 1094 Series; Forms 1095-B and 1095-C; Form 1099 Series; and Form 5498 Series. For returns in these series required to be filed after December 31, 2023, the threshold for mandatory e-filing is 10 returns during the calendar year. This is determined by aggregating most information returns — including these forms and Form W-2.
Also, a partnership with more than 100 partners must e-file these returns regardless of the number of returns. Any corrected return must be filed in the same format (electronic or paper) as the original return to which the correction corresponds. Interestingly, the proposed regs included a transition year (2022) in which the e-filing threshold for these returns would have been 100 returns. But there’s no transition period in the final regs.
Forms 5330 and 8955-SSA. Form 5330 (related to certain employee benefit plan excise taxes) for any taxable year ending on or after December 31, 2023, must be e-filed if the filer is required to file at least 10 returns of any type during the calendar year in which Form 5330 is due.
Form 8955-SSA (identifying separated participants with deferred vested benefits) for any plan year that begins on or after January 1, 2024, must be filed electronically if the filer is required to file at least 10 returns of any type during the calendar year that includes the first day of the plan year.
Form 5500 Series. Under IRS rules for retirement plans, filers of Form 5500 must e-file for plan years that begin on or after January 1, 2024, if they’re required to file at least 10 returns of any type during the calendar year that includes the first day of the plan year.
The regulations generally provide that the IRS may grant a waiver from the e-filing requirement if the filer can demonstrate undue hardship. The tax agency also may provide exemptions — for example, for religious reasons. In addition, e-filing isn’t required if the IRS’s systems don’t support it. The preamble notes that, because Forms 5500 and 5500-SF must be filed electronically using the U.S. Department of Labor’s EFAST2 system; no electronic filing waivers will be granted for those forms. Form 5500-EZ, however, isn’t required to be filed using EFAST2.
As expected, these regulations vastly expand the e-filing requirement for the forms in question, eliminating paper filings for all but the smallest employers. Although the lower thresholds don’t come as a surprise, employers that have been filing on paper may now need to move forward more quickly with their transitions to e-filing, paying close attention to the aggregation rules and effective dates. Contact us for help understanding all the tax and information-reporting requirements applicable to offering employee benefits.
Under tax law, businesses can generally deduct advertising and marketing costs that help bring in and keep customers. However, the expenses must be “ordinary and necessary” to be deductible. An ordinary expense is one that’s common and accepted in the industry. And a necessary expense is helpful and appropriate for the business. In a recent U.S. Tax Court case, an attorney argued he could deduct over $303,000 spent on car racing as advertising for his law firm because the firm sponsored the car. The IRS disallowed the costs as not ordinary and necessary. The court agreed, stating that the taxpayer’s primary motive for incurring the expenses wasn’t to promote his law firm. (TC Memo 2023-18)
If you were told someone earns more than $200,000 annually, you might assume the person is a salaried employee who’s ineligible for overtime pay. However, as demonstrated in the recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt, this isn’t always a safe assumption.
The FLSA rules
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), hourly “nonexempt” wage earners generally must receive overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 hours per workweek. A workweek doesn’t need to be a calendar week — for example, a Wednesday to Tuesday workweek would qualify.
To be exempt from overtime (and minimum wage) regulations, most employees need to be paid at least $684 per week or $35,568 annually. This is known as the salary level test. An exempt employee must also pass the job duties test, the conditions for which vary by position. For instance, to qualify for the executive exemption, the job duties test stipulates that:
In the aforementioned Supreme Court case, the employee involved was a “tool-pusher” whose duties included supervising other offshore oil rig workers. He was paid a daily rate ranging from $963 to $1,341 per day, resulting in earnings of more than $200,000 annually. Under the compensation scheme, the daily rate increased each consecutive day worked.
The employee filed suit claiming his employer violated the FLSA’s overtime provisions. In response, the company argued that he was exempt from overtime pay as a “bona fide executive.”
To qualify for such an exemption, an employee must meet the salary level and job duties tests as mentioned above. But the employee also needs to satisfy the salary basis test. Under FLSA regulations, a bona fide executive may satisfy the salary basis test if the person is a highly compensated employee (HCE) — that is, one who earns at least $107,432 or more per year (or $100,000 per year before January 1, 2020).
The Court’s decision
The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 ruling that an HCE who’s paid at a daily rate is not considered to be paid a salary. Therefore, the employee in question wasn’t exempt from receiving overtime pay.
In its majority opinion, the Court reasoned that the HCE rule isn’t only a “simple income level” test for the purposes of exemption. It noted that the employer could have satisfied the exemption if the daily rate was a weekly guarantee that satisfied applicable regulations, or if compensation had been a straight weekly salary.
The Court wasn’t swayed by the company’s objection that paying a weekly guaranteed daily rate or straight weekly salary would have resulted in the employee receiving compensation for days he didn’t work. According to the Court, this only further showed that the employee wasn’t paid a salary and, thus, didn’t meet the requirements for the exemption from overtime pay.
Current and compliant
The business in this case joined many others that have been tripped up by the FLSA’s rules. If your company pays employees overtime, our firm can help you stay current and compliant with the latest applicable regulations.
Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt, No. 21-984, February 22, 2023 (U.S. Supreme Court)
Family-owned businesses face distinctive challenges when it comes to succession planning. For example, it’s important to address the distinction between ownership succession and management succession.
When a nonfamily business is sold to a third party, ownership and management succession typically happen simultaneously. However, in the context of a family business, there may be reasons to separate the two.
From an estate planning perspective, transferring ownership of assets to the younger generation as early as possible allows you to remove future appreciation from your estate, thereby minimizing estate taxes. Proactive estate planning may be especially relevant today, given changes to the federal estate and gift tax regime under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
For 2023, the unified federal estate and gift tax exemption will be $12.92 million, or effectively $25.84 million for married couples. That’s generous by historical standards. In 2026, the exemption is set to fall to about $6 million, or $12 million for married couples, after inflation adjustments — unless Congress acts to change the law.
However, when it comes to transferring ownership of a family business, older generations may not be ready to hand over the reins — or they may feel that their children aren’t yet ready to take over. Another reason to separate ownership and management succession is to deal with family members who aren’t involved in the company. Providing heirs outside the business with equity interests that don’t confer control may be an effective way to share the wealth.
Several tools may allow you to transfer family business interests without immediately giving up control, including:
Owners of smaller family businesses may perceive ESOPs as a complex tool, reserved primarily for large public companies. However, an ESOP can be an effective way to transfer stock to family members who work in the company and other employees, while allowing the owners to cash out some of their equity in the business.
Owners can use this newfound liquidity to fund their retirements, diversify their portfolios or provide for family members who aren’t involved in the business. If an ESOP is structured properly, an owner can maintain control over the business for an extended period even if the ESOP acquires a majority of the company’s stock.
When it comes to succession planning, older and younger generations of a family business may have conflicting objectives and financial needs. If any of the strategies mentioned here interest you, or you’d like to discuss other aspects of succession planning, please contact us.
Many people have savings bonds that were purchased many years ago. Perhaps they were given to your children as gifts or maybe you bought them yourself. You may wonder how the interest you earn is taxed. And if they reach final maturity, what action do you need to take to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences?
Series EE Bonds dated May 2005 and after earn a fixed rate of interest. Bonds purchased between May 1997 and April 30, 2005, earn a variable market-based rate of return.
Paper Series EE Bonds, issued between 1980 and 2012, are sold at half their face value. For example, you pay $25 for a $50 bond. The bond isn’t worth its face value until it matures. New electronic EE Bonds earn a fixed rate of interest that’s set before you buy the bond. They earn that rate for their first 20 years and the U.S. Treasury may change the rate for the last 10 years of the bond’s 30-year life. Electronic EE bonds are sold at their face value. For example, you pay $100 for a $100 bond.
The minimum ownership term is one year, but a penalty is imposed if the bond is redeemed in the first five years.
Series EE bonds don’t pay interest currently. Instead, accrued interest is reflected in the redemption value of the bond. The U.S. Treasury issues tables showing redemption values. Series EE bond interest isn’t taxed as it accrues unless the owner elects to have it taxed annually. If the election is made, all previously accrued but untaxed interest is also reported in the election year. In most cases, the election isn’t made so that the benefit of tax deferral can be enjoyed. On the other hand, if the bond is owned by a taxpayer with little or no other current income, it may be beneficial to incur the income in low or no tax years to avoid future inclusion. This may be the case with bonds owned by children, although the “kiddie tax” may apply.
If the election isn’t made, all of the accrued interest is taxed when the bond is redeemed or otherwise disposed of (unless it was exchanged for a Series HH bond in an option available before September 1, 2004). The bond continues to accrue interest even after reaching its face value but at “final maturity” (after 30 years) interest stops accruing and must be reported (again, unless it was exchanged for an HH bond).
If you own EE bonds (paper or electronic), check the issue dates on your bonds. If they’re no longer earning interest, you probably want to redeem them and put the money into something more profitable.
Series I savings bonds are designed to offer a rate of return over and above inflation. The earnings rate is a combination of a fixed rate, which will apply for the life of the bond, and the inflation rate. Rates are announced each May 1 and November 1.
Series I bonds are issued at par (face amount). An owner of Series I bonds may either:
If 2 is elected, the election applies to all Series I bonds then owned by the taxpayer, those acquired later, and to any other obligations purchased on a discount basis, (for example, Series EE bonds). You can’t change to method 1 unless you follow a specific IRS procedure.
State and local taxes
Although the interest on EE and I bonds is taxable for federal income tax purposes, it’s exempt from state and local taxes. And using the money for higher education may keep you from paying federal income tax on the interest. Contact us if you have any questions about savings bond taxation.
An impressive 432,834 new business applications for tax identification numbers were submitted during October 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Indeed, despite the relatively higher costs of doing business these days, plenty of start-ups are still launching.
One thing that every new company needs, along with a business plan, is a sensible budget. And that holds true for well-established entities as well. Let’s review some fundamentals of budgeting for start-ups, which can also apply in some shape or form to companies that have been around for a while.
Forecast your financial statements
Many businesses that have been up and running for a while base their budgets on the previous year’s financial results. Of course, start-ups lack historical financial statements, which can make budgeting difficult.
For the first year of operation, however, an entrepreneur can create an annual budget by forecasting the monthly numbers that will likely be reflected in the three basic parts of their financial statements:
1. The income statement. Start your annual budget by estimating how much you expect to sell each month. Then, estimate direct costs (such as materials, labor, sales tax and shipping) based on that sales volume. Many operating costs (such as rent, salaries and insurance) will be fixed over the short run.
Once you spread overhead costs over your sales, you might not be able to report a net profit in your first year of operation. Don’t panic! Profitability takes time and hard work. Once you turn a profit, however, remember to save room in your budget for income taxes.
2. The balance sheet. To start generating revenue, you’ll also need equipment and marketing materials — including a website. Other operating assets, such as accounts receivable and inventory, typically move in tandem with revenue. How will you finance these assets? Entrepreneurs may invest personal funds, take out loans or receive money from other investors. These items fall under liabilities and equity on the balance sheet.
3. The statement of cash flows. This report tracks sources and uses of cash from operating, investing and financing activities. Essentially, it shows how your business will make ends meet each month. In addition to acquiring assets, start-ups need to cover fixed monthly expenses.
Ask for help
By forecasting these three statements every month for at least a year, you can identify when cash shortfalls, as well as seasonal peaks and troughs, are likely to occur. Naturally, you should expect to adjust the budget occasionally or even frequently to account for miscalculations and macroeconomic forces.
We can help you put together a realistic budget based on industry benchmarks and market research into the likely demand for your products or services. And, again, even if your company has been operating for a while now, you may be able to gain some helpful insights from having an objective professional review your budget.
Two tax benefits are available to offset the expenses of adopting a child. In 2022, adoptive parents may be able to claim a credit against their federal tax for up to $14,890 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each child. This will increase to $15,950 in 2023. That’s a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax.
Also, adoptive parents may be able to exclude from gross income up to $14,890 in 2022 ($15,950 in 2023) of qualified expenses paid by an employer under an adoption assistance program. Both the credit and the exclusion are phased out if the parents’ income exceeds certain limits.
Parents can claim both a credit and an exclusion for expenses of adopting a child. But they can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expenses.
To qualify for the credit or the exclusion, the expenses must be “qualified adoption expenses.” These are the reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses (including meals and lodging), and other expenses directly related to the legal adoption of an “eligible child.”
Qualified expenses don’t include those connected with the adoption of a child of a spouse, a surrogate parenting arrangement, expenses that violate state or federal law or expenses paid using funds received from a government program. Expenses reimbursed by an employer don’t qualify for the credit, but benefits provided by an employer under an adoption assistance program may qualify for the exclusion.
Expenses related to an unsuccessful attempt to adopt a child may qualify. Expenses connected with a foreign adoption (the child isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident) qualify only if the child is actually adopted.
Taxpayers who adopt a child with special needs are deemed to have qualified adoption expenses in the tax year in which the adoption becomes final, in an amount sufficient to bring their total aggregate expenses for the adoption up to $14,890 for 2022 ($15,950 for 2023). They can take the adoption credit or exclude employer adoption assistance up to that amount, whether or not they had those amounts of actual expenses.
An eligible child is under age 18 at the time a qualified expense is paid. A child who turns 18 during the year is eligible for the part of the year he or she is under age 18. A person who is physically or mentally incapable of caring for him- or herself is eligible, regardless of age.
A special needs child refers to one who the state has determined can’t or shouldn’t be returned to his or her parents and who can’t be reasonably placed with adoptive parents without assistance because of a specific factor or condition. Only a child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. is included in this category.
The credit allowed for 2022 is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) over $223,410 ($239,230 for 2023) and is eliminated when AGI reaches $263,410 ($279,230 for 2023).
Note: The adoption credit isn’t “refundable.” So, if the sum of your refundable credits (including any adoption credit) for the year exceeds your tax liability, the excess amount isn’t refunded to you. In other words, the credit can be claimed only up to your tax liability.
Get the full benefit
Contact us with any questions. We can help ensure you get the full benefit of the tax savings available to adoptive parents.
As an employer, you’re no doubt well aware of your responsibility to withhold employment taxes — such as Social Security, Medicare and income taxes — from employees’ compensation. And, of course, you need to report that compensation and the tax dollars withheld to the IRS.
But, in today’s “gig economy,” your organization may have a few or perhaps many workers who are independent contractors rather than employees. It’s important to consistently fulfill your reporting obligations for these individuals as well.
Although an employer isn’t responsible for withholding employment taxes from nonemployee compensation, an organization that pays more than $600 to an independent contractor must report that compensation to the IRS.
Independent contractor payments are reported on Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation.” Generally, employers reporting contractor compensation must file Form 1099-NEC by January 31 of the year following the payment(s).
Note that January 31 is a hard deadline. Unlike other information returns, Form 1099-NEC isn’t subject to an automatic 30-day extension to file. An extension to file may be available under certain hardship conditions, but such an extension must be requested before the filing deadline. Form 8809, “Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns,” is used for this request.
In some situations, independent contractor compensation that’s reportable on Form 1099-NEC is subject to backup withholding. This requirement ensures that the IRS receives the tax due on certain nonwage income. Independent contractor compensation is subject to backup withholding if:
A payee’s TIN is either a Social Security Number, an Employer Identification Number, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number. When backup withholding is required, the rate is generally 24%.
Once an employer has started taking backup withholding, only the payee can stop it by showing the IRS that all income has been reported and/or that any underreporting has been corrected. Payees may also be able to stop backup withholding by showing that it will cause them undue hardship. If the IRS determines that backup withholding should stop, the payee will receive a written certification to that effect.
Brush up on the rules
As of this writing, unemployment remains relatively low. So, your organization might be using alternative staffing strategies if it can’t fill its open positions. Be sure to follow the tax rules for reporting payments to any independent contractors that you engage. Our firm can answer questions and provide further assistance.
If you’re thinking about selling stock shares at a loss to offset gains that you’ve realized during 2022, it’s important to watch out for the “wash sale” rule.
The loss could be disallowed
Under this rule, if you sell stock or securities for a loss and buy substantially identical stock or securities back within the 30-day period before or after the sale date, the loss can’t be claimed for tax purposes. The rule is designed to prevent taxpayers from using the tax benefit of a loss without parting with ownership in any significant way. Note that the rule applies to a 30-day period before or after the sale date to prevent “buying the stock back” before it’s even sold. (If you participate in any dividend reinvestment plans, it’s possible the wash sale rule may be inadvertently triggered when dividends are reinvested under the plan, if you’ve separately sold some of the same stock at a loss within the 30-day period.)
The wash sale rule even applies if you repurchase the security in a tax-advantaged retirement account, such as a traditional or Roth IRA.
Although a loss can’t be claimed on a wash sale, the disallowed amount is added to the cost of the new stock. So, the disallowed amount can be claimed when the new stock is finally disposed of in the future (other than in a wash sale).
Let’s look at an example
Say you bought 500 shares of ABC, Inc. for $10,000 and sold them on November 4 for $3,000. On November 29, you buy 500 shares of ABC again for $3,200. Since the shares were “bought back” within 30 days of the sale, the wash sale rule applies. Therefore, you can’t claim a $7,000 loss. Your basis in the new 500 shares is $10,200: the actual cost plus the $7,000 disallowed loss.
If only a portion of the stock sold is bought back, only that portion of the loss is disallowed. So, in the above example, if you’d only bought back 300 of the 500 shares (60%), you’d be able to claim 40% of the loss on the sale ($2,800). The remaining $4,200 loss that’s disallowed under the wash sale rule would be added to your cost of the 300 shares.
If you’ve cashed in some big gains in 2022, you may be looking for unrealized losses in your portfolio so you can sell those investments before year-end. By doing so, you can offset your gains with your losses and reduce your 2022 tax liability. But be careful of the wash sale rule. We can answer any questions you may have.
The IRS recently announced the 2023 dollar limits and thresholds for qualified retirement plans, reflecting the latest cost-of-living adjustments. Here are some relevant amounts to be aware of:
Contribution limits for 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans. The annual limit on contributions will increase to $22,500 (up from $20,500) for 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans, as well as for Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension plans (SARSEPs). The annual limits will rise to $15,500 (up from $14,000) for Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLEs) and SIMPLE IRAs.
Catch-up contributions. The annual limit on catch-up contributions for individuals age 50 and over will increase to $7,500 (up from $6,500) for 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans, as well as for SARSEPs. The annual limit for SIMPLEs and SIMPLE IRAs will go up to $3,500 from $3,000.
Compensation. The annual limit on the maximum compensation that can be taken into account for certain retirement plan contributions and deductions will rise to $330,000 (up from $305,000).
Highly compensated employees. The threshold for determining who’s a highly compensated employee will increase to $150,000 (up from $135,000).
Key employees. The threshold for determining whether an officer is a “key employee” under the top-heavy rules, as well as the cafeteria plan nondiscrimination rules, will rise to $215,000 (up from $200,000).
SEP annual contributions. The limit on annual contributions to these plans will increase to $66,000 (up from $61,000).
SEP participation. The threshold for determining participation in a SARSEP or SEP will rise to $750 from $650.
Saver’s tax credit. The upper income limit for determining whether certain individuals are eligible for the saver’s tax credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) will increase to:
“Control” employees. The amounts for determining who’s a control employee, a classification relevant to the valuation of company fringe benefits, will increase to $130,000 (up from $120,000) for a board or shareholder-appointed, confirmed, or elected officer, and to $265,000 (up from $245,000) for other employees.
Social Security taxable wage base. The annual cost-of-living adjustment to the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax, which is relevant for various benefit purposes, will rise to $160,200 (up from $147,000). This adjustment was announced in October by the Social Security Administration.
Compared with recent years, many of these amounts have notably increased because of inflation. Employers that sponsor 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans should carefully note the changes and, as necessary, review and revise employee communications, plan procedures and administrative forms. Contact us for further information and for help assessing the impact on your retirement plan.
The overall stock market has been down during 2022 but there have been some bright spots. As year-end approaches, consider making some moves to make the best tax use of paper losses and actual losses from your stock market investments.
Tax rates on sales
Individuals are subject to tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investment assets receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from 0% to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers may pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax.
Sell at a loss to offset earlier gains
Have you realized gains earlier in the year from sales of stock held for more than one year (long-term capital gains) or from sales of stock held for one year or less (short-term capital gains)? Take a close look at your portfolio and consider selling some of the losers — those shares that now show a paper loss. The best tax strategy is to sell enough losers to generate losses to offset your earlier gains plus an additional $3,000 loss. Selling to produce this loss amount is a tax-smart idea because a $3,000 capital loss (but no more) can offset the same amount of ordinary income each year.
For example, let’s say you have $10,000 of capital gain from the sale of stocks earlier in 2022. You also have several losing positions, including shares in a tech stock. The tech shares currently show a loss of $15,000. From a tax standpoint, you should consider selling enough of your tech stock shares to recognize a $13,000 loss. Your capital gains will be offset entirely, and you’ll have a $3,000 loss to offset against the same amount of ordinary income.
What if you believe that the shares showing a paper loss may turn around and eventually generate a profit? In order to sell and then repurchase the shares without forfeiting the loss deduction, you must avoid the wash-sale rules. This means that you must buy the new shares outside of the period that begins 30 days before and ends 30 days after the sale of the loss stock. However, if you expect the price of the shares showing a loss to rise quickly, your tax savings from taking the loss may not be worth the potential investment gain you may lose by waiting more than 30 days to repurchase the shares.
Use losses earlier in the year to offset gains
If you have capital losses on sales earlier in 2022, consider whether you should take capital gains on some stocks that you still hold. For example, if you have appreciated stocks that you’d like to sell, but don’t want to sell if it causes you to have taxable gain this year, consider selling just enough shares to offset your earlier-in-the-year capital losses (except for $3,000 that can be used to offset ordinary income). Consider selling appreciated stocks now if you believe they’ve reached (or are close to) the peak price and you also feel you can invest the proceeds from the sale in other property that’ll give you a better return in the future.
These are just some of the year-end strategies that may save you taxes. Contact us to discuss these and other strategies that should be put in place before the end of December.
When employers address cybersecurity, they often focus on financial data and intellectual property. But there’s another area that’s just as important and typically much more vulnerable: HR information.
Many organizations have a huge amount of data about both current and former employees, as well as job candidates, stored on their servers or in the cloud. And this information tends to be at great risk because, even if it’s encrypted in storage, HR staff often share key data points via easily hackable mediums such as email, text and instant messaging.
Assess your risk
A good first step to take is to assess your risk. Conduct an internal audit of the types of employment and benefits information you gather, how much data of each type you’re currently retaining, where it’s stored, as well as who’s using it and how.
Don’t be surprised if you discover multiple redundancies regarding where data is stored. Many organizations also discover that they’ve been holding on to HR data for far too long. You could even be shocked to learn that employees aren’t following security protocols, assuming you have widely understood and enforced ones in place to begin with.
4 guidelines to follow
To better protect sensitive HR information, follow these four guidelines:
1. Collect only what’s absolutely needed. Some organizations are unnecessarily thorough when it comes to gathering information on current and former employees, as well as job candidates and even independent contractors. Ideally, you want to establish a set list of data points to collect — appropriate to your needs, of course — and limit yourself to those.
2. Encrypt everything. This may seem to go without saying but, following an audit of your HR data, you might find that some sensitive information isn’t encrypted. It’s for this very reason that employers need to know precisely where every bit of employment-related data is stored and shared.
3. Implement strict policies governing who may access and use HR data. Carefully devised, clearly worded and regularly updated cybersecurity policies are now a must for every type of organization — no matter how big or small.
One important concept to integrate into your policies is “least privilege.” This is the general rule that employees should be granted only the absolute minimum levels of access needed to perform their job functions.
4. Retain data for limited periods. They say on the Internet, or more specifically the cloud, everything lasts forever. But it doesn’t have to. Regularly delete HR data that you no longer need. Just be sure to comply with federal and state statutes for file retention related to tax reporting and other important matters, including legal investigations.
Stay out of the dark
There’s reportedly a huge market for stolen HR information on the “dark web” — the alternate version of the Internet where hackers go to sell their ill-gotten gains. Be sure to take the necessary steps to protect your organization because the associated costs of a data leak, HR or otherwise, can be devastating.
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you about the importance of cybersecurity. However, unlike the lock to a physical door, which generally lasts a good long time, measures you take to protect your company from hackers and malware need to be updated and reinforced much more regularly.
Two common categories
Most of today’s business cyberattacks fall into two main categories: ransomware and social engineering.
In a ransomware attack, hackers infiltrate a company’s computer network, encrypt or freeze critical data, and hold that data hostage until their ransom demands are met. It’s become a highly common form of cybercrime. Just one example, which occurred in October 2022, involved a major health care system that had recently executed a major M&A deal.
On the other hand, social engineering attacks use manipulation and pressure to trick employees into granting cybercriminals access to internal systems or bank accounts. The two most common forms of social engineering are phishing and business email compromise (BEC).
In a typical phishing scam, cyberthieves send fake, but often real-looking, emails to employees to entice them into downloading attachments that contain malware. Or they try to get employees to click on links that automatically download the malware.
In either case, once installed on an employee’s computer, the malware can give hackers remote access to a company’s computer network — including customer data and bank accounts. (Also beware of “smishing,” which is when fraudsters use text messages for the same purpose.)
BEC attacks are similar. Here, cyberthieves send fake emails mainly to accounting employees saying the company’s bank accounts have been frozen because of fraud. The emails instruct employees to reply with account usernames and passwords to supposedly resolve the problem. With this information, thieves can wreak financial havoc — including initiating unauthorized wire transfers — which can be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.
Here are a few things you can do to guard against cyberattacks:
Continually train employees. Conduct mandatory training sessions at regular intervals to ensure your employees are familiar with your cybersecurity policies and can recognize the many possible forms of a cyberattack.
Maintain IT infrastructure. Instruct and remind employees to download software updates when they’re available. Enforce a strict policy of regular password changes. If two-factor authentication is feasible, set it up. This is particularly important with remote employees.
Encrypt and back up data. All company data should be encrypted and regularly backed up on a separate off-site server. In the event of a ransomware attack, you’ll still be able to access that data without paying the ransom.
Restrict access to your Wi-Fi network. First and foremost, it should be password-protected. Also, move your router to a secure location and install multiple firewalls. If you offer free Wi-Fi to customers, use a separate network for that purpose.
Consider insurance coverage. Insurers now sell policies that will help pay costs associated with data breaches while also covering some legal fees associated with cyberattacks. However, you’ll need to shop carefully, set a reasonable budget and read the fine print.
Defend your data
None of the measures mentioned above are one-time activities. On a regular basis, businesses need to determine what new training employees need and whether there are better ways to secure IT infrastructure and sensitive data. Let us help you assess, measure and track the costs associated with preserving your company’s cybersecurity.
The holiday season is here and many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones before the end of the year. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.
Donating to charity
In 2022, in order to receive a charitable donation write-off, you must itemize deductions on your tax return. What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.
First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.
The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.
Charitable donations from your IRA
IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are permitted to make cash donations totaling up to $100,000 annually to IRS-approved public charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction.
The upside is that the tax-free treatment of QCDs equates to an immediate 100% federal income tax deduction without having to worry about restrictions that can potentially delay itemized charitable write-offs. Contact your tax advisor if you want to hear about the full benefits of QCDs. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this strategy for 2022, you’ll need to arrange with your IRA trustee or custodian for money to be paid out to one or more qualifying charities before year end.
Giving to loved ones
The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to family members and loved ones. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.
Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.
In 2022, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $16,000 per recipient (increasing to $17,000 in 2023). The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $32,000 per recipient for 2022.
Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones (or both) this holiday season, it’s important to understand the tax consequences of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about taxes and any gifts you want to make.
How much can you and your employees contribute to your 401(k)s next year — or other retirement plans? In Notice 2022-55, the IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments that apply to the dollar limitations for pensions, as well as other qualified retirement plans for 2023. The amounts increased more than they have in recent years due to inflation.
The 2023 contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) plans will increase to $22,500 (up from $20,500 in 2022). This contribution amount also applies to 403(b) plans, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.
The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k) plans and the other plans mentioned above will increase to $7,500 (up from $6,500 in 2022). Therefore, participants in 401(k) plans (and the others listed above) who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000 in 2023.
SEP plans and defined contribution plans
The limitation for defined contribution plans, including a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan, will increase from $61,000 to $66,000. To participate in a SEP, an eligible employee must receive at least a certain amount of compensation for the year. That amount will increase in 2023 to $750 (from $650 for 2022).
Deferrals to a SIMPLE plan will increase to $15,500 in 2023 (up from $14,000 in 2022). The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE plans will increase to $3,500 in 2023, up from $3,000.
Other plan limits
The IRS also announced that in 2023:
The 2023 limit on annual contributions to an individual IRA will increase to $6,500 (up from $6,000 for 2022). The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and older isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and will remain $1,000.
Current high inflation rates will make it easier for you and your employees to save much more in your retirement plans in 2023. The contribution amounts will be a great deal higher next year than they’ve been in recent years. Contact us if you have questions about your tax-advantaged retirement plan or if you want to explore other retirement plan options.
The effects of inflation are all around. You’re probably paying more for gas, food, health care and other expenses than you were last year. Are you wondering how high inflation will affect your federal income tax bill for 2023? The IRS recently announced next year’s inflation-adjusted tax amounts for several provisions.
Standard deduction. What does an increased standard deduction mean for you? A larger standard deduction will shelter more income from federal income tax next year. For 2023, the standard deduction will increase to $13,850 for single taxpayers, $27,700 for married couples filing jointly and $20,800 for heads of household. This is up from the 2022 amounts of $12,950 for single taxpayers, $25,900 for married couples filing jointly and $19,400 for heads of household.
The highest tax rate. For 2023, the highest tax rate of 37% will affect single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $578,125 ($693,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly). This is up from 2022 when the 37% rate affects single taxpayers and heads of households with income exceeding $539,900 ($647,850 for married couples filing jointly).
Retirement plans. Many retirement plan limits will increase for 2023. That means you’ll have an opportunity to save more for retirement if you have one of these plans and you contribute the maximum amount allowed. For example, in 2023, individuals will be able to contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and most 457 plans. This is up from $20,500 in 2022. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in these plans will also rise in 2023 to $7,500. This is up from $6,500 in 2022.
For those with IRA accounts, the limit on annual contributions will rise for 2023 to $6,500 (from $6,000). The IRA catch-up contribution for those age 50 and up remains at $1,000 because it isn’t adjusted for inflation.
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These accounts allow owners to pay for qualified medical costs with pre-tax dollars. If you participate in an employer-sponsored health Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can contribute more in 2023. The annual contribution amount will rise to $3,050 (up from $2,850 in 2022). FSA funds must be used by year end unless an employer elects to allow a two-and-one-half-month carryover grace period. For 2023, the amount that can be carried over to the following year will rise to $610 (up from $570 for 2022).
Taxable gifts. Each year, you can make annual gifts up to the federal gift tax exclusion amount. Annual gifts help reduce the taxable value of your estate without reducing your unified federal estate and gift tax exemption. For 2023, the first $17,000 of gifts to as many recipients as you would like (other than gifts of future interests) aren’t included in the total amount of taxable gifts. (This is up from $16,000 in 2022.)
While it will be quite a while before you have to file your 2023 tax return, it won’t be long until the IRS begins accepting tax returns for 2022. When it comes to taxes, it’s nice to know what’s ahead so you can take advantage of all the tax breaks to which you are entitled.
The Social Security Administration recently announced that the wage base for computing Social Security tax will increase to $160,200 for 2023 (up from $147,000 for 2022). Wages and self-employment income above this threshold aren’t subject to Social Security tax.
Basics about Social Security
The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes two taxes on employers, employees and self-employed workers. One is for the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program, which is commonly known as Social Security. The other is for the Hospital Insurance program, which is commonly known as Medicare.
There’s a maximum amount of compensation subject to the Social Security tax, but no maximum for Medicare tax. For 2023, the FICA tax rate for employers is 7.65% — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare (the same as in 2022).
For 2023, an employee will pay:
For 2023, the self-employment tax imposed on self-employed people is:
Employees with more than one employer
What happens if one of your employees works for your business and has a second job? That employee would have taxes withheld from two different employers. Can the employee ask you to stop withholding Social Security tax once he or she reaches the wage base threshold? Unfortunately, no. Each employer must withhold Social Security taxes from the individual’s wages, even if the combined withholding exceeds the maximum amount that can be imposed for the year. Fortunately, the employee will get a credit on his or her tax return for any excess withheld.
Contact us if you have questions about 2023 payroll tax filing or payments. We can help ensure you stay in compliance.
When your organization hires someone, it’s important to ensure that the individual is both qualified for the position and a good fit for your mission and culture. But no matter how hard you try, you could still end up with a problematic employee.
The question then becomes: How should you handle the situation? The simple answer is: With great care, because the stakes are high both financially and for your employer brand.
Retrain or replace
If a staff member isn’t working out, you have three basic options:
None of these options are easy, but the last one likely presents the greatest immediate risk. Taking an adverse employment action, such as firing, could lead to a costly lawsuit. And finding a replacement will consume time, money and resources.
Then again, confronting an employee about problematic performance or behavior can be awkward and contentious. What’s more, getting the individual to change for the better — whether in the current position or a new one — can take a long time.
Investigate the matter
Before doing anything, investigate precisely what’s going on. Did the person materially misrepresent skills or experience during the hiring process? Have the employee’s actions clearly been unprofessional, unethical or even potentially dangerous? If so, there may be defensible grounds for termination.
However — and this is the tough part — also determine whether your organization bears some responsibility for the situation. Many employers have room for improvement when it comes to onboarding and training.
Did your HR staff, and everyone who participated in interviews, clearly communicate the job duties and performance expectations for the position? Was the employee warmly welcomed, thoroughly trained and provided the tools (such as proper workspace and equipment) to perform well?
Ultimately, you want to identify the source of the problematic behavior or attitude. Often, the straightest path to resolution is to simply ask. Engage in an open, good-faith dialogue with the employee in which you state your concerns and openly listen to the staff member’s point of view.
Build a case
Not all foibles can be fixed, however, nor every problem employee saved. Here are a few tips for dealing with particularly contentious situations:
Generally, employers can establish better legal footing for termination if a measured, documented, step-by-step approach to performance improvement is undertaken rather than a sudden firing. Contact your attorney for further details and help with a specific matter.
Don’t put up with it
Some organizations tolerate problematic employees for years, often because they have hard-to-replace skills or close relationships with key customers. However, over time, these individuals will likely impair an employer’s financial results and ability to hire or retain good workers. That’s why it’s usually best to address the matter right away.
Businesses can provide benefits to employees that don’t cost them much or anything at all. However, in some cases, employees may have to pay tax on the value of these benefits.
Here are examples of two types of benefits which employees generally can exclude from income:
However, many fringe benefits are taxable, meaning they’re included in the employees’ wages and reported on Form W-2. Unless an exception applies, these benefits are subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security (unless the employee has already reached the year’s wage base limit) and Medicare.
Court case provides lessons
The line between taxable and nontaxable fringe benefits may not be clear. As illustrated in one recent case, some taxpayers get into trouble if they cross too far over the line.
A retired airline pilot received free stand-by airline tickets from his former employer for himself, his spouse, his daughter and two other adult relatives. The value of the tickets provided to the adult relatives was valued $5,478. The airline reported this amount as income paid to the retired pilot on Form 1099-MISC, which it filed with the IRS. The taxpayer and his spouse filed a joint tax return for the year in question but didn’t include the value of the free tickets in gross income.
The IRS determined that the couple was required to include the value of the airline tickets provided to their adult relatives in their gross income. The retired pilot argued the value of the tickets should be excluded as a de minimis fringe.
The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the IRS that the taxpayers were required to include in gross income the value of airline tickets provided to their adult relatives. The value, the court stated, didn’t qualify for exclusion as a no-additional-cost service because the adult relatives weren’t the taxpayers’ dependent children. In addition, the value wasn’t excludable under the tax code as a de minimis fringe benefit “because the tickets had a value high enough that accounting for their provision was not unreasonable or administratively impracticable.” (TC Memo 2022-36)
You may be able to exclude from wages the value of certain fringe benefits that your business provides to employees. But the requirements are strict. If you have questions about the tax implications of fringe benefits, contact us.
You’ve probably heard of the “nanny tax.” But even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a house cleaner, gardener or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.
If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you can choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.
2022 and 2023 thresholds
In 2022, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,400 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). The Social Security Administration recently announced that this amount will increase to $2,600 in 2023. If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.
However, if a nanny is under age 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. So, if you have a part-time student babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.
Both an employer and a household worker may have FICA tax obligations. As an employer, you’re responsible for withholding your worker’s FICA share. In addition, you must pay a matching amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for the employer and the worker (2.9% total).
If you want, you can pay your worker’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you do, your payments aren’t counted as additional cash wages for Social Security and Medicare purposes. However, your payments are treated as additional income to the worker for federal tax purposes, so you must include them as wages on the W-2 form that you must provide.
You also must pay FUTA tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages paid and is only paid by the employer.
You pay household worker obligations by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from wages, rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.
As an employer of a household worker, you don’t have to file employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own your own business). Instead, employment taxes are reported on your tax return on Schedule H.
When you report the taxes on your return, include your employer identification number (not the same as your Social Security number). You must file Form SS-4 to get one.
However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you include the taxes for a household worker on the FUTA and FICA forms (940 and 941) that you file for the business. And you use your sole proprietorship EIN to report the taxes.
Keep careful records
Keep related tax records for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records should include the worker’s name, address, Social Security number, employment dates, dates and the amount of wages paid and taxes withheld, and copies of forms filed.
Contact us for assistance or questions about how to comply with these requirements.
Employers have encountered significant challenges in managing their workforces over the last few years. The onset of the pandemic saw many organizations downsizing suddenly and severely. More recently, during “the Great Resignation,” many employees have been voluntarily leaving their jobs, tightening the hiring market considerably.
As your organization looks to build and maintain a stable workforce, one segment of job candidates to explore — with caution — is “early career” workers.
Invest in the future
An early career worker is generally considered someone with three or fewer years’ experience in a full-time professional role. Often, this means a younger individual who has only recently completed an undergraduate or graduate degree. But the term can also describe a person who has switched careers by completing a certificate program or some other form of education or training.
The advantages of hiring people early in their careers are clear. Generally, they’re very eager to learn, grow and gain experience. They often bring fresh perspectives, and it’s probably safe to say that most, if not all, of today’s recent college grads have an innate familiarity with technology.
Above all, early career workers represent an investment in the future. Properly onboarded and trained, these employees can play long-term, cost-effective roles in the productivity and success of an organization.
Beware of legal pitfalls
However, overly or clumsily focusing on early career hiring can lead an employer into costly trouble. Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a large pharmaceutical corporation alleging violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This law prohibits discrimination against applicants age 40 and over.
According to the lawsuit, the corporation favored millennials over older workers for sales jobs so its workforce would be “distributed ... by generation” in a more advantageous manner. As evidence, the EEOC’s complaint points to a public statement by a company executive announcing a goal of 40% early career hiring to add more millennials. The company has denied the allegations and, as of this writing, is fighting the lawsuit.
Obviously, no employer wants to find itself embroiled in a legal action of this kind. Even if you prevail, the costs and bad publicity will likely take a heavy toll. At the same time, hiring those early in their careers is an important part of maintaining a stable workforce.
To stay on safe ground, establish and regularly verify that your hiring practices are age neutral. Beware of job postings that feature words such as “fresh,” “energetic” and “high potential.” Such words or phrases can indicate an age bias. Never discourage applicants above a certain age from applying or “grade them lower” for having a minimal social media presence or a “dated” college degree.
Design and double-check
Indeed, questionable approaches to hiring may lead to financially devastating consequences. On the flip side, hiring effectively can prove to be a great competitive advantage. Work closely with a qualified employment attorney when designing and double-checking your hiring practices. Our firm can help support the process by assisting you with measuring hiring costs and productivity.
If you’re interested in investing in tax-free municipal bonds, you may wonder if they’re really free of taxes. While the investment generally provides tax-free interest on the federal (and possibly state) level, there may be tax consequences. Here’s how the rules work.
Purchasing a bond
If you buy a tax-exempt bond for its face amount, either on the initial offering or in the market, there are no immediate tax consequences. If you buy such a bond between interest payment dates, you’ll have to pay the seller any interest accrued since the last interest payment date. This amount is treated as a capital investment and is deducted from the next interest payment as a return of capital.
Interest excluded from income
In general, interest received on a tax-free municipal bond isn’t included in gross income although it may be includible for alternative minimum tax (AMT) purposes. While tax-free interest is attractive, keep in mind that a municipal bond may pay a lower interest rate than an otherwise equivalent taxable investment. The after-tax yield is what counts.
In the case of a tax-free bond, the after-tax yield is generally equal to the pre-tax yield. With a taxable bond, the after-tax yield is based on the amount of interest you have after taking into account the increase in your tax liability on account of annual interest payments. This depends on your effective tax bracket. In general, tax-free bonds are likely to be appealing to taxpayers in higher brackets since they receive a greater benefit from excluding interest from income. For lower-bracket taxpayers, the tax benefit from excluding interest from income may not be enough to make up for a lower interest rate.
Even though municipal bond interest isn’t taxable, it’s shown on a tax return. This is because tax-exempt interest is taken into account when determining the amount of Social Security benefits that are taxable as well as other tax breaks.
Another tax advantage
Tax-exempt bond interest is also exempt from the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT). The NIIT is imposed on the investment income of individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000 for joint filers, $125,000 for married filing separate filers, and $200,000 for other taxpayers.
Tax-deferred retirement accounts
It generally doesn’t make sense to hold municipal bonds in your traditional IRA or 401(k) account. The income in these accounts isn’t taxed currently. But once you start taking distributions, the entire amount withdrawn is likely to be taxed. Thus, if you want to invest retirement funds in fixed income obligations, it’s generally advisable to invest in higher-yielding taxable securities.
We can help
These are only some of the tax consequences of investing in municipal bonds. As mentioned, there may be AMT implications. And if you receive Social Security benefits, investing in municipal bonds could increase the amount of tax you must pay with respect to the benefits. Contact us if you need assistance applying the tax rules to your situation or if you have any questions.
You and your small business are likely to incur a variety of local transportation costs each year. There are various tax implications for these expenses.
First, what is “local transportation?” It refers to travel in which you aren’t away from your tax home (the city or general area in which your main place of business is located) long enough to require sleep or rest. Different rules apply if you’re away from your tax home for significantly more than an ordinary workday and you need sleep or rest in order to do your work.
Costs of traveling to your work location
The most important feature of the local transportation rules is that your commuting costs aren’t deductible . In other words, the fare you pay or the miles you drive simply to get to work and home again are personal and not business miles. Therefore, no deduction is available. This is the case even if you work during the commute (for example, via a cell phone, or by performing business-related tasks while on the subway).
An exception applies for commuting to a temporary work location that’s outside of the metropolitan area in which you live and normally work. “Temporary,” for this purpose, means a location where your work is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for no more than a year.
Costs of traveling from work location to other sites
On the other hand, once you get to the work location, the cost of any local trips you take for business purposes is a deductible business expense. So, for example, the cost of travel from your office to visit a customer or pick up supplies is deductible. Similarly, if you have two business locations, the costs of traveling between them is deductible.
If your deductible trip is by taxi or public transportation, save a receipt if possible or make a notation of the expense in a logbook. Record the date, amount spent, destination and business purpose. If you use your own car, note miles driven instead of the amount spent. Note also any tolls paid or parking fees and keep receipts.
You’ll need to allocate your automobile expenses between business and personal use based on miles driven during the year. Proper recordkeeping is crucial in the event the IRS challenges you.
Your deduction can be computed using:
Employees versus self-employed
From 2018 – 2025, employees, may not deduct unreimbursed local transportation costs. That’s because “miscellaneous itemized deductions” — a category that includes employee business expenses — are suspended (not allowed) for 2018 through 2025. However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct the expenses discussed in this article. But beginning with 2026, business expenses (including unreimbursed employee auto expenses) of employees are scheduled to be deductible again, as long as the employee’s total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income.
Contact us with any questions or to discuss the matter further.
If you have a child or grandchild who’s going to attend college in the future, you’ve probably heard about qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans. These plans, named for the Internal Revenue Code section that provides for them, allow prepayment of higher education costs on a tax-favored basis.
There are two types of programs:
You don’t get a federal income tax deduction for a contribution, but the earnings on the account aren’t taxed while the funds are in the program. (Contributors are eligible for state tax deductions in some states.) You can change the beneficiary or roll over the funds in the program to another plan for the same or a different beneficiary without income tax consequences.
Distributions from the program are tax-free up to the amount of the student’s “qualified higher education expenses.” These include tuition (including up to $10,000 in tuition for an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school), fees, books, supplies and required equipment. Reasonable room and board is also a qualified expense if the student is enrolled at least half time.
Distributions from a 529 plan can also be used to make tax-free payments of principal or interest on a loan to pay qualified higher education expenses of the beneficiary or a sibling of the beneficiary.
What about distributions in excess of qualified expenses? They’re taxed to the beneficiary to the extent that they represent earnings on the account. A 10% penalty tax is also imposed.
Eligible schools include colleges, universities, vocational schools or other postsecondary schools eligible to participate in a student aid program of the U.S. Department of Education. This includes nearly all accredited public, nonprofit and for-profit postsecondary institutions.
However, “qualified higher education expenses” also include expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school.
A school should be able to tell you whether it qualifies.
The contributions you make to the qualified tuition program are treated as gifts to the student, but the contributions qualify for the gift tax exclusion amount ($16,000 for 2022, adjusted for inflation). If your contributions in a year exceed the exclusion amount, you can elect to take the contributions into account ratably over a five-year period starting with the year of the contributions. Thus, assuming you make no other gifts to that beneficiary, you could contribute up to $80,000 per beneficiary in 2022 without gift tax. (In that case, any additional contributions during the next four years would be subject to gift tax, except to the extent that the exclusion amount increases.) You and your spouse together could contribute $160,000 for 2022 per beneficiary, subject to any contribution limits imposed by the plan.
A distribution from a qualified tuition program isn’t subject to gift tax, but a change in beneficiary or rollover to the account of a new beneficiary may be. Contact us with questions about tax-saving ways to save and pay for college.
IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report , but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.
From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.
There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.
It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:
Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.
If you receive a letter
If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.
Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)
The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.
If you’re audited, our firm can help you:
The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.
Employers have been advised for years to beware of “presenteeism” and its often slow-developing negative effects on an organization. Obviously, a regularly absent employee isn’t getting much work done. But someone who repeatedly shows up unwell — the definition of presenteeism — tends to accomplish less, produce substandard work and might even hurt the performance of co-workers.
An employee who works in an office or other facility and comes in physically ill could literally sicken other staff members. This has become a particularly acute problem during the COVID-19 pandemic. But presenteeism can be more subtle and hard to spot when it involves mental illness, major stress or burnout. These issues can develop slowly and be hard to detect until they become major problems.
Promote your benefits
“We offer paid time off for illness” is a common response to presenteeism. Paid sick days do generally help resolve incidences of physical ailment or injury. However, they often fail to adequately address struggles with mental illness, burnout, and stressors such as divorce or financial struggles. Some supervisors might raise an eyebrow at those taking a “mental health day,” so sufferers end up coming in to work when they really need a day off.
How can you help? If you sponsor a health care plan, it likely offers coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment. Be sure employees are aware of this.
Also, reinforce with staff that you’ll honor the sick-day provisions spelled out in your employee manual for all types of ailments (physical, mental and psychological). Train supervisors to support employees’ well-being, which includes encouraging team members to take time off when necessary.
Encourage healthy work habits
Another common cause of presenteeism is the perceived notion that workers must put in excessive overtime to prove themselves. Some organizations still operate under an “old school” culture that says working extra shifts or even 24/7 when salaried will make the boss happy and lead to quicker raises and promotions.
Many supervisors assume that an absent employee automatically means productivity is plummeting. Conversely, if someone is always “burning the midnight oil” and skipping vacations, productivity must be soaring. But these assumptions aren’t always true — they must be supported by a thorough, objective and analytical performance evaluation process.
You can prevent this cause of presenteeism by strongly encouraging, if not strictly enforcing, paid time off. Communicate to employees your concerns about overworking and remind them to take advantage of the time off that they’ve earned. (Doing so can also deter fraud.)
Don’t forget telecommuters
Many of today’s employers face an even bigger challenge spotting and addressing presenteeism because so many people work from home, where showing up (logging in) unwell is incredibly easy. Be sure to train supervisors to check in regularly with telecommuters and watch for signs of burnout. We can help you track and analyze data points related to productivity that may raise a red flag of presenteeism in progress.
Now that fall is officially here, it’s a good time to start taking steps that may lower your tax bill for this year and next.
One of the first planning steps is to ascertain whether you’ll take the standard deduction or itemize deductions for 2022. Many taxpayers won’t itemize because of the high 2022 standard deduction amounts ($25,900 for joint filers, $12,950 for singles and married couples filing separately and $19,400 for heads of household). Also, many itemized deductions have been reduced or abolished under current law.
If you do itemize, you can deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI), state and local taxes up to $10,000, charitable contributions, and mortgage interest on a restricted amount of debt, but these deductions won’t save taxes unless they’re more than your standard deduction.
Bunching, pushing, pulling
Some taxpayers may be able to work around these deduction restrictions by applying a “bunching” strategy to pull or push discretionary medical expenses and charitable contributions into the year where they’ll do some tax good. For example, if you’ll be able to itemize deductions this year but not next, you may want to make two years’ worth of charitable contributions this year.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
These are just some of the year-end steps that may save taxes. Contact us to tailor a plan that will work best for you.
When the pandemic hit about two and a half years ago, thousands of employees suddenly found themselves working from home. In many cases, this meant turning to personal devices to access their work email, handle documents and perform other tasks. Even before COVID, more and more businesses were allowing employees to use their own phones, tablets and laptops to get stuff done.
By now, many companies have established firm bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. Other businesses, however, have taken a more informal approach, allowing their policies to evolve with minimal documentation. Whichever camp your company falls into, it’s a good idea to regularly review and, if necessary, formalize your BYOD policy.
A comprehensive BYOD policy needs to anticipate a multitude of situations. What if a voluntary or involuntary termination occurs? What if a device is lost, shared or recycled? What if it’s infected by a virus or malware? How about if a device is synced on an employee’s home cloud? Other key questions to address include:
Who pays the bill? Payment policies vary widely. For example, an employer might pay for an unlimited data plan for employees. Any charges above that amount are the employee’s responsibility.
Who owns an employee’s cell phone number? This is a big deal for salespeople and service representatives — especially if they leave to work for a competitor. Customers may continue to call a rep’s cell phone, leading to lost sales for your business.
Are employees properly password-protecting their devices? A policy should require employees to not only use passwords, but also implement two-factor authentication if feasible. In addition, users need to set up their devices to lock if left idle for more than a few minutes.
A BYOD policy needs to address the fact that using a personal device for work inevitably opens the door for an employer to access personal information, such as text messages and photos. State that the company will never intentionally view protected items on a device, such as privileged communications with attorneys, protected health information or complaints against the employer that are permitted under the National Labor Relations Act.
In case your business becomes involved in a lawsuit, its data retention policies should address how data is stored on mobile devices and gathered during litigation. Keep in mind that Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure covers all devices, including personal ones that access a company’s network.
Formalizing your BYOD policy should involve spelling it out in a written user’s agreement that all participants must sign. Consult a qualified attorney in drafting such an agreement. Contact us for help assessing the tax and financial impact of allowing employees to use personal devices vs. buying technology assets and providing them to your workforce.
As a result of the current estate tax exemption amount ($12.06 million in 2022), many estates no longer need to be concerned with federal estate tax. Before 2011, a much smaller amount resulted in estate plans attempting to avoid it. But now, because many estates won’t be subject to estate tax, more planning can be devoted to saving income taxes for your heirs.
While saving both income and transfer taxes has always been a goal of estate planning, it was more difficult to succeed at both when the estate and gift tax exemption level was much lower. Here are three considerations.
Plan gifts that use the annual gift tax exclusion. One of the benefits of using the gift tax annual exclusion to make transfers during life is to save estate tax. This is because both the transferred assets and any post-transfer appreciation generated by those assets are removed from the donor’s estate.
As mentioned, estate tax savings may not be an issue because of the large estate exemption amount. Further, making an annual exclusion transfer of appreciated property carries a potential income tax cost because the recipient receives the donor’s basis upon transfer. Thus, the recipient could face income tax, in the form of capital gains tax, on the sale of the gifted property in the future. If there’s no concern that an estate will be subject to estate tax, even if the gifted property grows in value, then the decision to make a gift should be based on other factors.
For example, gifts may be made to help a relative buy a home or start a business. But a donor shouldn’t gift appreciated property because of the capital gain that could be realized on a future sale by the recipient. If the appreciated property is held until the donor’s death, under current law, the heir will get a step-up in basis that will wipe out the capital gain tax on any pre-death appreciation in the property’s value.
Take spouses’ estates into account. In the past, spouses often undertook complicated strategies to equalize their estates so that each could take advantage of the estate tax exemption amount. Generally, a two-trust plan was established to minimize estate tax. “Portability,” or the ability to apply the decedent’s unused exclusion amount to the surviving spouse’s transfers during life and at death, became effective for estates of decedents dying after 2010. As long as the election is made, portability allows the surviving spouse to apply the unused portion of a decedent’s applicable exclusion amount (the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount) as calculated in the year of the decedent’s death. The portability election gives married couples more flexibility in deciding how to use their exclusion amounts.
Be aware that some estate exclusion or valuation discount strategies to avoid inclusion of property in an estate may no longer be worth pursuing. It may be better to have the property included in the estate or not qualify for valuation discounts so that the property receives a step-up in basis. For example, the special use valuation — the valuation of qualified real property used for farming or in a business on the basis of the property’s actual use, rather than on its highest and best use — may not save enough, or any, estate tax to justify giving up the step-up in basis that would otherwise occur for the property.
If you’d like to discuss these strategies and how they relate to your estate plan, contact us.
During the initial pandemic lockdowns of 2020, many people learned for the first time what it was like to work from home. Not everyone loved it, but some employers and employees found telecommuting to be so mutually beneficial that they’re still doing it. And the practice was growing in popularity before the public health crisis anyway.
Now that working remotely is so commonplace, should the IRS update the tax rules regarding the deductibility of travel expenses by employees? The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) thinks so.
Call for clarity
In an August 25 letter to the IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury, the AICPA called for clarity on several matters. One was determining how an employee should be reimbursed for expenses incurred in traveling to an employer’s work location when travel days are limited and the distance has increased — a scenario that’s become more common and has upended traditional notions of commuting.
The organization said its analysis of new scenarios involving various work arrangements — such as location-based, remote and hybrid — found that “current revenue rulings and interpretations of case law are outdated, do not reflect the current work environment, and are unclear in many instances.”
Travel or commute?
In many modern working arrangements, both the employer and employee view the latter’s residence as the main site at which work is performed. “In many instances, existing tax guidance does not apply to today’s work arrangements to determine when expenses are deductible travel expenses and when such amounts are non-deductible commuting expenses,” the letter states.
Specifically, the AICPA recommended that the IRS and Treasury Dept. revise Revenue Ruling 99-7 to eliminate its reference to the “exclusive use” requirement under Internal Revenue Code Section 280A(c). In addition, the concept of “for the convenience of employer” should be updated, the organization also recommended.
As an alternative, the AICPA suggested creating new guidance to establish a safe harbor for determining a “principal place of business” with specific criteria that would no longer refer to the “exclusive use” requirement of Sec. 280A(c).
According to the letter, employers are reassessing their fringe benefit programs in response to employees’ questions about remote work arrangements. Such queries include whether remote workers could be reimbursed for travel expenses related to spending time in an employer-provided location, such as an office. The AICPA recommended that the federal agencies:
Because many employers have set policies and positions “based on reasonable interpretations of existing guidance,” new guidance should include transition relief to help employers facilitate compliance, the AICPA told the IRS and Treasury Dept.
Time will tell
Is the AICPA’s letter a harbinger of landmark changes to travel expense rules for employers and employees? Only time will tell. We can keep you updated on this developing story and answer any questions you have about the tax impact of fringe benefits.
In its latest report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced that July 2022 existing home sales were down but prices were up nationwide, compared with last year. “The ongoing sales decline reflects the impact of the mortgage rate peak of 6% in early June,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. However, he added that “home sales may soon stabilize since mortgage rates have fallen to near 5%, thereby giving an additional boost of purchasing power to home buyers.”
If you’re buying a home, or you just bought one, you may wonder if you can deduct mortgage points paid on your behalf by the seller. The answer is “yes,” subject to some important limitations described below.
Basics of points
Points are upfront fees charged by a mortgage lender, expressed as a percentage of the loan principal. Points, which may be deductible if you itemize deductions, are normally the buyer’s obligation. But a seller will sometimes sweeten a deal by agreeing to pay the points on the buyer’s mortgage loan.
In most cases, points that a buyer pays are a deductible interest expense. And seller-paid points may also be deductible.
Suppose, for example, that you bought a home for $600,000. In connection with a $500,000 mortgage loan, your bank charged two points, or $10,000. The seller agreed to pay the points in order to close the sale.
You can deduct the $10,000 in the year of sale. The only disadvantage is that your tax basis is reduced to $590,000, which will mean more gain if — and when — you sell the home for more than that amount. But that may not happen until many years later, and the gain may not be taxable anyway. You may qualify for an exclusion for up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) of gain on the sale of a principal residence.
There are some important limitations on the rule allowing a deduction for seller-paid points. The rule doesn’t apply:
Tax aspects of the transaction
We can review with you in more detail whether the points in your home purchase are deductible, as well as discuss other tax aspects of your transaction.
Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.
Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.
However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.
Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.
The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.
Estate planning options
Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.
Handling the transaction
The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.
Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner's other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.
An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.
An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.
Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.
High-income taxpayers face two special taxes — a 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) and a 0.9% additional Medicare tax on wage and self-employment income. Here’s an overview of the taxes and what they may mean for you.
This tax applies, in addition to income tax, on your net investment income. The NIIT only affects taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeding $250,000 for joint filers, $200,000 for single taxpayers and heads of household, and $125,000 for married individuals filing separately.
If your AGI is above the threshold that applies ($250,000, $200,000 or $125,000), the NIIT applies to the lesser of 1) your net investment income for the tax year or 2) the excess of your AGI for the tax year over your threshold amount.
The “net investment income” that’s subject to the NIIT consists of interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, rents and net gains from property sales. Wage income and income from an active trade or business isn’t included. However, passive business income is subject to the NIIT.
Income that’s exempt from income tax, such as tax-exempt bond interest, is likewise exempt from the NIIT. Thus, switching some taxable investments to tax-exempt bonds can reduce your exposure. Of course, this should be done after taking your income needs and investment considerations into account.
How does the NIIT apply to home sales? If you sell your principal residence, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for joint filers) when figuring your income tax. This excluded gain isn’t subject to the NIIT.
However, gain that exceeds the exclusion limit is subject to the tax. Gain from the sale of a vacation home or other second residence, which doesn’t qualify for the exclusion, is also subject to the NIIT.
Distributions from qualified retirement plans, such as pension plans and IRAs, aren’t subject to the NIIT. However, those distributions may push your AGI over the threshold that would cause other types of income to be subject to the tax.
Additional 0.9% Medicare tax
Some high-wage earners pay an extra 0.9% Medicare tax on part of their wage income, in addition to the 1.45% Medicare tax that all wage earners pay. The 0.9% tax applies to wages in excess of $250,000 for joint filers, $125,000 for a married individuals filing separately and $200,000 for all others. It applies only to employees, not to employers.
Once an employee’s wages reach $200,000 for the year, the employer must begin withholding the additional 0.9% tax. However, this withholding may prove insufficient if the employee has additional wage income from another job or if the employee’s spouse also has wage income. To avoid that result, an employee may request extra income tax withholding by filing a new Form W-4 with the employer.
An extra 0.9% Medicare tax also applies to self-employment income for the tax year in excess of the same amounts for wage earners. This is in addition to the regular 2.9% Medicare tax on all self-employment income. The $250,000, $125,000, and $200,000 thresholds are reduced by the taxpayer's wage income.
Reduce the impact
As you can see, these two taxes may have a significant effect on your tax bill. Contact us to discuss these taxes and how their impact could be reduced.
Now that Labor Day has passed, it’s a good time to think about making moves that may help lower your small business taxes for this year and next. The standard year-end approach of deferring income and accelerating deductions to minimize taxes will likely produce the best results for most businesses, as will bunching deductible expenses into this year or next to maximize their tax value.
If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year, opposite strategies may produce better results. For example, you could pull income into 2022 to be taxed at lower rates, and defer deductible expenses until 2023, when they can be claimed to offset higher-taxed income.
Here are some other ideas that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end.
Taxpayers other than corporations may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20% of their qualified business income (QBI). For 2022, if taxable income exceeds $340,100 for married couples filing jointly (half that amount for others), the deduction may be limited based on: whether the taxpayer is engaged in a service-type business (such as law, health or consulting), the amount of W-2 wages paid by the business, and/or the unadjusted basis of qualified property (such as machinery and equipment) held by the business. The limitations are phased in.
Taxpayers may be able to salvage some or all of the QBI deduction by deferring income or accelerating deductions to keep income under the dollar thresholds (or be subject to a smaller deduction phaseout). You also may be able increase the deduction by increasing W-2 wages before year-end. The rules are complex, so consult us before acting.
Cash vs. accrual accounting
More small businesses are able to use the cash (rather than the accrual) method of accounting for federal tax purposes than were allowed to do so in previous years. To qualify as a small business under current law, a taxpayer must (among other requirements) satisfy a gross receipts test. For 2022, it’s satisfied if, during a three-year testing period, average annual gross receipts don’t exceed $27 million. Not that long ago, it was only $5 million. Cash method taxpayers may find it easier to defer income by holding off billings until next year, paying bills early or making certain prepayments.
Section 179 deduction
Consider making expenditures that qualify for the Section 179 expensing option. For 2022, the expensing limit is $1.08 million, and the investment ceiling limit is $2.7 million. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property (other than buildings) including equipment, off-the-shelf computer software, interior improvements to a building, HVAC and security systems.
The high dollar ceilings mean that many small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to currently deduct most or all of their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the deduction isn’t prorated for the time an asset is in service during the year. Just place eligible property in service by the last days of 2022 and you can claim a full deduction for the year.
Businesses also can generally claim a 100% bonus first year depreciation deduction for qualified improvement property and machinery and equipment bought new or used, if purchased and placed in service this year. Again, the full write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2022.
Consult with us for more ideas
These are just some year-end strategies that may help you save taxes. Contact us to tailor a plan that works for you.
You may have heard that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law recently. While experts have varying opinions about whether it will reduce inflation in the near future, it contains, extends and modifies many climate and energy-related tax credits that may be of interest to individuals.
Nonbusiness energy property
Before the IRA was enacted, you were allowed a personal tax credit for certain nonbusiness energy property expenses. The credit applied only to property placed in service before January 1, 2022. The credit is now extended for energy-efficient property placed in service before January 1, 2033.
The new law also increases the credit for a tax year to an amount equal to 30% of:
The credit is further increased for amounts spent for a home energy audit (up to $150).
In addition, the IRA repeals the lifetime credit limitation, and instead limits the credit to $1,200 per taxpayer, per year. There are also annual limits of $600 for credits with respect to residential energy property expenditures, windows, and skylights, and $250 for any exterior door ($500 total for all exterior doors). A $2,000 annual limit applies with respect to amounts paid or incurred for specified heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and biomass stoves/boilers.
The residential clean-energy credit
Prior to the IRA being enacted, you were allowed a personal tax credit, known as the Residential Energy Efficient Property (REEP) Credit, for solar electric, solar hot water, fuel cell, small wind energy, geothermal heat pump and biomass fuel property installed in homes before 2024.
The new law makes the credit available for property installed before 2035. It also makes the credit available for qualified battery storage technology expenses.
New Clean Vehicle Credit
Before the enactment of the law, you could claim a credit for each new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle placed in service during the tax year.
The law renames the credit the Clean Vehicle Credit and eliminates the limitation on the number of vehicles eligible for the credit. Also, final assembly of the vehicle must now take place in North America.
Beginning in 2023, there will be income limitations. No Clean Vehicle Credit is allowed if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for the year of purchase or the preceding year exceeds $300,000 for a married couple filing jointly, $225,000 for a head of household, or $150,000 for others. In addition, no credit is allowed if the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the vehicle is more than $55,000 ($80,000 for pickups, vans, or SUVs).
Finally, the way the credit is calculated is changing. The rules are complicated, but they place more emphasis on where the battery components (and critical minerals used in the battery) are sourced.
The IRS provides more information about the Clean Vehicle Credit here: https://bit.ly/3ATxEA9
Credit for used clean vehicles
A qualified buyer who acquires and places in service a previously owned clean vehicle after 2022 is allowed a tax credit equal to the lesser of $4,000 or 30% of the vehicle’s sale price. No credit is allowed if your MAGI for the year of purchase or the preceding year exceeds $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, $112,500 for a head of household, or $75,000 for others. In addition, the maximum price per vehicle is $25,000.
We can answer your questions
Contact us if you have questions about taking advantage of these new and revised tax credits.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Biden on August 16, contains many provisions related to climate, energy and taxes. There has been a lot of media coverage about the law’s impact on large corporations. For example, the IRA contains a new 15% alternative minimum tax on large, profitable corporations. And the law adds a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks of more than $1 million by publicly traded U.S. corporations.
But there are also provisions that provide tax relief for small businesses. Here are two:
A payroll tax credit for research
Under current law, qualified small businesses can elect to claim a portion of their research credit as a payroll tax credit against their employer Social Security tax liability, rather than against their income tax liability. This became effective for tax years that begin after December 31, 2015.
Qualified small businesses that elect to claim the research credit as a payroll tax credit do so on IRS Form 8974, “Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities.” Currently, a qualified small business can claim up to $250,000 of its credit for increasing research activities as a payroll tax credit against the employer's share of Social Security tax.
The IRA makes changes to the credit, beginning next year. It allows for qualified small businesses to apply an additional $250,000 in qualifying research expenses as a payroll tax credit against the employer share of Medicare. The credit can’t exceed the tax imposed for any calendar quarter, with unused amounts of the credit carried forward. This provision will take effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022.
A qualified small business must meet certain requirements, including having gross receipts under a certain amount.
Extension of the limit on excess business losses of noncorporate taxpayers
Another provision in the new law extends the limit on excess business losses for noncorporate taxpayers. Under prior law, there was a cap set on business loss deductions by noncorporate taxpayers. For 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited deductions for net business losses from sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers). Losses in excess of those amounts (which are adjusted annually for inflation) may be carried forward to future tax years under the net operating loss rules.
Although another law (the CARES Act) suspended the limit for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 tax years, it’s now back in force and has been extended through 2028 by the IRA. Businesses with significant losses should consult with us to discuss the impact of this change on their tax planning strategies.
We can help
These are only two of the many provisions in the IRA. There may be other tax benefits to your small business if you’re buying electric vehicles or green energy products. Contact us if you have questions about the new law and your situation.
To those accustomed to receiving a paycheck every couple weeks, getting paid every day might sound like either a dream come true or a troubling temptation. For better or worse, “same-day pay” is becoming an increasingly popular payroll benefit offered by employers. And the results of a recent study indicate that many employees would appreciate the option.
Most employers pay employees for services performed weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly or monthly. At the federal level, there are no pay frequency requirements. The Fair Labor Standards Act regulates minimum wages, overtime, hours worked, recordkeeping and child labor. However, it doesn’t dictate when employees must be paid.
Some U.S. states do have certain pay frequency requirements. For example, in New Hampshire, employers must pay employees wages on a weekly or biweekly schedule. Semi-monthly and monthly pay frequencies must be approved by the New Hampshire Department of Labor. In California and Michigan, the frequency of pay depends on the occupation.
Enter the EWA
Within the last decade or so, more employers and third-party payors are offering a new pay frequency that allows employees to receive earned wages on the same day that they perform services. These are typically referred to as earned/early wage access (EWA) arrangements and, as mentioned, they’re becoming more popular for certain types of jobs, such as drivers and service industry workers.
Under an EWA program, employees generally use an app to access accrued wages before the end of their regular pay cycles and the amounts are transferred to a bank account, prepaid debit card or payroll card. This process differs from payday lending because the worker has already performed the work for the pay in question.
Instant Financial, an EWA services provider, first surveyed U.S. workers in 2018 to understand the effects and perceptions of wage frequency on job consideration, application and offer acceptance. Just this year, the company conducted a follow-up national research study in partnership with the Center for Generational Kinetics.
This latest survey sought to understand how perceptions have changed around wage frequency, primarily because of the pandemic. It also looked at the impact that pay frequency can have on financial health and other organizational factors. The study found that more Americans:
The 2022 report also found that 56% of workers would stay longer at their jobs if they could get same-day pay at no extra cost. In addition, those polled said they’d feel more engaged and valued as employees — and would recommend an employer to job-seeking family and friends — if that employer offered a no-cost EWA arrangement.
One might note that an EWA services provider issuing a research study trumpeting the upsides of same-day pay is hardly surprising. Prudent employers should look before they leap when it comes to offering such a payroll benefit — particularly regarding the cash flow impact, administrative burden and costs. If you’re interested, contact us for help deciding whether same-day pay is right for your organization.
If you’re a business owner working from home or an entrepreneur with a home-based side gig, you may qualify for valuable home office deductions.
But not everyone who works from home gets the tax break. Employees who work remotely can’t deduct home office expenses under current federal tax law.
To qualify for a deduction, you must use at least part of your home regularly and exclusively as either:
In addition, you may be able to claim deductions for maintaining a separate structure — such as a garage — where you store products or tools used solely for business purposes.
Notably, “regular and exclusive” use means you must consistently use a specific identifiable area in your home for business. However, incidental or occasional personal use won’t necessarily disqualify you.
Rules for employees
What if you work remotely from home as an employee for an organization? Previously, people who itemized deductions could claim home office deductions as a miscellaneous expense, if the arrangement was for their employer’s convenience.
But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended miscellaneous expense deductions for 2018 through 2025. So, employees currently get no tax benefit if they work from home. On the other hand, self-employed individuals still may qualify if they meet the tax law requirements.
Direct and indirect expenses
If you qualify, you can write off the full amount of your direct expenses and a proportionate amount of your indirect expenses based on the percentage of business use of your home.
Indirect expenses include:
Important: If you itemize deductions, mortgage interest and property taxes may already be deductible. If you claim a portion of these expenses as home office expenses, the remainder is deductible on your personal return. But you can’t deduct the same amount twice as a personal deduction and again as a home office expense.
Calculating your deduction
Typically, the percentage of business use is determined by the square footage of your home office. For instance, if you have a 3,000 square-foot home and use a room with 300 square feet as your office, the applicable percentage is 10%. Alternatively, you may use any other reasonable method for determining this percentage, such as a percentage based on the number of comparably sized rooms in the home.
The simplified method
Keeping track of indirect expenses is time-consuming. Some taxpayers prefer to take advantage of a simplified method of deducting home office expenses. Instead of deducting actual expenses, you can claim a deduction equal to $5 per square foot for the area used as an office, up to a maximum of $1,500 for the year. Although this method takes less time than tracking actual expenses, it generally results in a significantly lower deduction.
When you sell
Keep in mind that if you claim home office deductions, you may be in for a tax surprise when you sell your home.
If you eventually sell your principal residence, you may qualify for a tax exclusion of up to $250,000 of gain for single filers ($500,000 for married couples who file jointly). But you must recapture the depreciation attributable to a home office for the period after May 6, 1997.
Contact us. We can address questions related to writing off home office expenses, the best way to compute deductions and the tax implications when you sell your home.
Do you own a successful small business with no employees and want to set up a retirement plan? Or do you want to upgrade from a SIMPLE IRA or Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan? Consider a solo 401(k) if you have healthy self-employment income and want to contribute substantial amounts to a retirement nest egg.
This strategy is geared toward self-employed individuals including sole proprietors, owners of single-member limited liability companies and other one-person businesses.
Go it alone
With a solo 401(k) plan, you can potentially make large annual deductible contributions to a retirement account.
For 2022, you can make an “elective deferral contribution” of up to $20,500 of your net self-employment (SE) income to a solo 401(k). The elective deferral contribution limit increases to $27,000 if you’ll be 50 or older as of December 31, 2022. The larger $27,000 figure includes an extra $6,500 catch-up contribution that’s allowed for these older owners.
On top of your elective deferral contribution, an additional contribution of up to 20% of your net SE income is permitted for solo 401(k)s. This is called an “employer contribution,” though there’s technically no employer when you’re self-employed. (The amount for employees is 25%.) For purposes of calculating the employer contribution, your net SE income isn’t reduced by your elective deferral contribution.
For the 2022 tax year, the combined elective deferral and employer contributions can’t exceed:
Net SE income equals the net profit shown on Form 1040 Schedule C, E or F for the business minus the deduction for 50% of self-employment tax attributable to the business.
Pros and cons
Besides the ability to make large deductible contributions, another solo 401(k) advantage is that contributions are discretionary. If cash is tight, you can contribute a small amount or nothing.
In addition, you can borrow from your solo 401(k) account, assuming the plan document permits it. The maximum loan amount is 50% of the account balance or $50,000, whichever is less. Some other plan options, including SEPs, don’t allow loans.
The biggest downside to solo 401(k)s is their administrative complexity. Significant upfront paperwork and some ongoing administrative efforts are required, including adopting a written plan document and arranging how and when elective deferral contributions will be collected and paid into the owner’s account. Also, once your account balance exceeds $250,000, you must file Form 5500-EZ with the IRS annually.
If your business has one or more employees, you can’t have a solo 401(k). Instead, you must have a multi-participant 401(k) with all the resulting complications. The tax rules may require you to make contributions for those employees. However, there’s an important loophole: You can exclude employees who are under 21 and employees who haven’t worked at least 1,000 hours during any 12-month period from 401(k) plan coverage.
Bottom line: For a one-person business, a solo 401(k) can be a smart retirement plan choice if:
Before you establish a solo 401(k), weigh the pros and cons of other retirement plans — especially if you’re 50 or older. Solo 401(k)s aren’t simple but they can allow you to make substantial and deductible contributions to a retirement nest egg. Contact us before signing up to determine what’s best for your situation.
Wellness programs have found a place in many companies’ health care benefits packages, but it hasn’t been easy. Because these programs take many different shapes and sizes, they can be challenging to design, implement and maintain.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of compliance: The federal government regulates wellness programs in various ways, including through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Whether your business is just embarking on the process of creating one or simply looking for improvement tips, here are some key aspects of the most successful wellness programs.
Simplicity and clarity
“Welcome to our new wellness program,” began the company’s memo. “Attached is a 200-page guide, featuring a complex point system that will determine whether you qualify for incentives, and a lengthy glossary of medical terminology.”
See the problem here? The surest way to get a program off to a bad start is by frontloading it with all sorts of complexities and time-consuming instructions. Granted, there will be an inevitable learning curve to any type of wellness program. But the simpler the design, the easier it will be to explain and implement. Remember that you can update and increase a program’s complexity as it becomes more ingrained in your company’s culture.
Clarity of communication is also paramount. Materials should be well-organized and written clearly and concisely. Ideally, they should also have an element of creativity to them — to draw in participants. However, the content needs to be sensitive to the fact that these are inherently personal health issues.
If you don’t have anyone in-house who can handle these criteria, consider engaging a consultant. In addition, have your attorney review all materials related to the program for compliance purposes.
Carefully chosen providers
At most companies, outside vendors provide the bulk of wellness program services and activities. These may include:
It’s critical to thoroughly vet providers and engage only those that are skilled and qualified. Neglecting to do so could mean that, even if you create and communicate a solid program, the initiative will likely fail once employees show up to participate and are disappointed in the experience.
Return on investment
Of course, there will be upfront and ongoing costs related to a wellness program. Contact us for help assessing these costs while designing or revising a program and tracking them over time. The ultimate sought-after return on investment of every wellness program is a healthier, more productive workforce and more affordable health care benefits.
In Revenue Procedure 2022-34, the IRS recently announced an important indexing adjustment related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That makes now a good time to review whether your organization is an applicable large employer (ALE) under the ACA and, if so, whether the health care coverage you offer employees will still be considered “affordable” next year.
Affordability and minimum value
An employer’s size, for ACA purposes, is determined in any given year by its number of employees in the previous year. Generally, if your organization had 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees on average during the previous year, you’ll be considered an ALE for the current calendar year. A full-time employee is an individual who provides, on average, at least 30 hours of service per week.
Under the ACA, what happens if an ALE doesn’t offer minimum essential coverage that’s affordable and provides minimum value to its full-time employees and their dependents? The employer may be subject to a penalty if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for buying individual coverage through a Health Insurance Marketplace (commonly referred to as an “exchange”).
For plan years beginning in 2023, the required contribution percentage used to determine whether employer-sponsored health coverage is affordable for purposes of the ACA’s employer shared responsibility provision has been adjusted from the 9.5% baseline to 9.12%. This is a decrease from the 2022 amount of 9.61%.
Some important and late-breaking changes have come to the premium tax credit. That is, the newly signed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) extends — through 2025 — the favorable premium tax credit rules adopted under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The ACA limits the premium tax credit to taxpayers with household incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line who buy insurance through a Health Insurance Marketplace. However, the ARPA eliminated the upper income limit for eligibility. It also increased the amount of the premium tax credit by decreasing, across all income bands, the percentage of household income that eligible individuals must contribute toward the cost of coverage bought from a Health Insurance Marketplace.
The 2023 percentages had been indexed to 1.92% to 9.12%. But a provision of the IRA supersedes these previously released indexing adjustments, so they’ll remain at zero to 8.5% through 2025.
Compliance is critical
Careful compliance with health care insurance mandates and requirements remains critical for employers. We can answer any questions you may have about your obligations under the ACA or about how to manage the costs of the health coverage you offer employees.
When a married couple files a joint tax return, each spouse is “jointly and severally” liable for the full amount of tax on the couple’s combined income. Therefore, the IRS can come after either spouse to collect the entire tax — not just the part that’s attributed to one spouse or the other. This includes any tax deficiency that the IRS assesses after an audit, as well as any penalties and interest. (However, the civil fraud penalty can be imposed only on spouses who’ve actually committed fraud.)
Innocent spouse relief
In some cases, spouses are eligible for “innocent spouse relief.” This generally involves individuals who were unaware of a tax understatement that was attributable to the other spouse.
To qualify, you must show not only that you didn’t know about the understatement, but that there was nothing that should have made you suspicious. In addition, the circumstances must make it inequitable to hold you liable for the tax. This relief is available even if you’re still married and living with your spouse.
In addition, spouses may be able to limit liability for any tax deficiency on a joint return if they’re widowed, divorced, legally separated or have lived apart for at least one year.
Election to limit liability
If you make this election, the tax items that gave rise to the deficiency will be allocated between you and your spouse as if you’d filed separate returns. For example, you’d generally be liable for the tax on any unreported wage income only to the extent that you earned the wages.
The election won’t provide relief from your spouse’s tax items if the IRS proves that you knew about the items when you signed the return — unless you can show that you signed the return under duress. Also, the limitation on your liability is increased by the value of any assets that your spouse transferred to you in order to avoid the tax.
An “injured” spouse
In addition to innocent spouse relief, there’s also relief for “injured” spouses. What’s the difference? An injured spouse claim asks the IRS to allocate part of a joint refund to one spouse. In these cases, an injured spouse has all or part of a refund from a joint return applied against past-due federal tax, state tax, child or spousal support, or a federal nontax debt (such as a student loan) owed by the other spouse. If you’re an injured spouse, you may be entitled to recoup your share of the refund.
Whether, and to what extent, you can take advantage of the above relief depends on the facts of your situation. If you’re interested in trying to obtain relief, there’s paperwork that must be filed and deadlines that must be met. We can assist you with the details.
Also, keep “joint and several liability” in mind when filing future tax returns. Even if a joint return results in less tax, you may choose to file a separate return if you want to be certain of being responsible only for your own tax. Contact us with any questions or concerns.
With electronic payments and in-app purchases becoming so much the norm, many midsize to large companies have grown accustomed to software-driven accounts receivable. But there are some smaller businesses that continue to soldier on with only partially automated payment systems.
If your company is still using paper-based processes, and suffering the consequences, it might be time to fully digitize your accounts receivable system. There are many benefits to consider.
Efficiency is everything
Generating a paper invoice is a laborious process — especially when there’s a digital alternative. Instead of creating, printing and mailing an invoice, organizations can autogenerate electronic invoices and e-reminders for overdue payments. This reduces the administrative burden considerably. Plus, e-billing saves on office supplies such as paper, envelopes and stamps.
Digitalization streamlines the cash conversion cycle. The accounting department doesn’t need to spend time mailing paper invoices and late notices. Instead, you might be able to reassign some staff members from administrative tasks to value-added ones, such as budgeting, forecasting and cash management.
Customers like it, too
On the flipside, customers that pay electronically — or set up an autopay option — don’t need to waste time sending a check. Plus, recipients of e-invoices could be more likely to pay quickly to capture discounts or merely remove the payment from their to-do lists.
Most customers, whether consumers or other businesses, have gotten comfortable paying via digital options, such as credit cards, ACH or wire transfers. Companies that sell directly to consumers may also accept payment via PayPal, Venmo or other digital payment apps. These alternatives might offer lower fees than those charged by credit cards.
At the end of the day, businesses that facilitate easy digital payments are easier to work with. Reducing customers’ administrative burdens can, in turn, increase their loyalty to your company. It can also reduce the potential for the conflicts that often arise when payments go missing or arrive late.
An added “bonus”
One added “bonus” of an optimized, automated accounts receivable system: Assuming it’s secure and users follow protocols, the right software can help you prevent fraud.
Paper checks are, after all, notoriously easy to fabricate or falsify. And because you won’t need to mail checks, you’ll no longer be at risk of check thievery by a third party. Beyond all that, the more visible and accessible data is to authorized personnel, the more likely they are to spot abnormalities and troubling trendlines.
If the time is right, fully digitizing your accounts receivable system could save money and help you grow the business. Just be sure to shop carefully, set a feasible budget and invest only in a solution that truly suits your well-specified needs. Let us assist you in weighing the costs, risks and advantages of this IT investment and any others you’re considering.
If you don’t have enough federal tax withheld from your paychecks and other payments, you may have to make estimated tax payments. This is the case if you receive interest, dividends, self-employment income, capital gains or other income. Here are the applicable rules for paying estimated tax without triggering the penalty for underpayment.
When are the payments due?
Individuals must pay 25% of a “required annual payment” by April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year, to avoid an underpayment penalty. If one of those dates falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment is due on the next business day.
So the third installment for 2022 is due on Wednesday, September 15. Payments are made using Form 1040-ES.
How much should you pay?
The required annual payment for most individuals is the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year. However, if the adjusted gross income on your previous year’s return was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if you’re married filing separately), you must pay the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 110% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year.
Most people who receive the bulk of their income in the form of wages satisfy these payment requirements through the tax withheld by their employers from their paychecks. Those who make estimated tax payments generally do so in four installments. After determining the required annual payment, divide that number by four and make four equal payments by the due dates.
But you may be able to use the annualized income method to make smaller payments. This method is useful to people whose income flow isn’t uniform over the year, perhaps because of a seasonal business. For example, if your income comes exclusively from a business operated in a resort area during June, July, and August, no estimated payment is required before September 15.
Who owes the penalty for underpaying?
If you don’t make the required payments, you may be subject to an underpayment penalty. The penalty equals the product of the interest rate charged by the IRS on deficiencies, times the amount of the underpayment for the period of the underpayment.
However, the underpayment penalty doesn’t apply to you if:
In addition, the IRS may waive the penalty if the failure was due to casualty, disaster or other unusual circumstances and it would be inequitable to impose the penalty. The penalty can also be waived for reasonable cause during the first two years after you retire (and reach age 62) or become disabled.
Do you have more questions?
Contact us if you think you may be eligible to determine your estimated tax payments under the annualized income method, or you have other questions about how the estimated tax rules apply to you.
As you’re aware, certain employers are required to report information related to their employees’ health coverage. Does your business have to comply, and if so, what must be done?
Certain employers with 50 or more full-time employees (called “applicable large employers” or ALEs) must use Forms 1094-C and 1095-C to report the information about offers of health coverage and enrollment in health coverage for their employees. Specifically, an ALE uses Form 1094-C to report summary information for each employee and to transmit Forms 1095-C to the IRS. A separate Form 1095-C is used to report information about each employee. In addition, Forms 1094-C and 1095-C are used to determine whether an employer owes payments under the employer shared responsibility provisions (sometimes referred to as the “employer mandate”).
Under the mandate, an employer can be subject to a penalty if it doesn’t offer affordable minimum essential coverage that provides minimum value to substantially all full-time employees and their dependents. Form 1095-C is also used in determining eligibility of employees for premium tax credits.
On Form 1095-C, ALEs must report the following for each employee who was a full-time employee for any month of the calendar year:
If an ALE offers health coverage through an employer’s self-insured plan, the ALE also must report more information on Form 1095-C. For this purpose, a self-insured plan also includes one that offers some enrollment options as insured arrangements and other options as self-insured.
If an employer provides health coverage in another manner, such as through an insured health plan or a multiemployer health plan, the insurance issuer or the plan sponsor making the coverage available will provide the information about health coverage to enrolled employees. An employer that provides employer-sponsored self-insured health coverage but isn’t subject to the employer mandate, isn’t required to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and reports instead on Forms 1094-B and 1095-B for employees who enrolled in the employer-sponsored self-insured health coverage.
On Form 1094-C, an employer can also indicate whether any certifications of eligibility for relief from the employer mandate apply.
Be aware that these reporting requirements may be more complex if your business is a member of an aggregated ALE group or if the coverage is provided through a multiemployer plan.
Note: Employers also report certain information about health coverage on employees’ W-2 forms. But it’s not the same information as what’s reported on 1095-C. The information on either form doesn’t cause excludable employer-provided coverage to become taxable to employees. It’s for informational purposes only.
The above is a simplified explanation of the reporting requirements. Contact us with questions or for assistance in complying with the requirements.
Many offices, plants and other business facilities are once again filled with real, live people. And those hard-working employees need somewhere to park. If your company provides parking as a fringe benefit — either on or near your premises or at a location from which employees commute — the IRS may take an interest in the arrangement.
A recently revised IRS webpage intended for charities and nonprofits highlights the tax rules applicable to employer-provided parking and what the tax agency will want to know in the event of an audit. The content is informative for businesses as well.
Parking as a benefit
Employers are allowed to provide tax-free parking to employees as a qualified transportation fringe benefit under Internal Revenue Code Section 132(f). The dollar amount of qualified parking expenses that may be excluded from an employee’s gross income cannot exceed a statutory maximum, which is subject to annual cost-of-living adjustments. For 2022, the maximum is $280 per month.
The IRS webpage explains that the value of employer-provided parking must be determined following the same general rules as those used for valuing other fringe benefits under Treasury regulations. These rules provide that an employer must include in an employee’s gross income the amount by which the fair market value of the benefit exceeds the sum of the amount, if any, paid for the benefit by or on behalf of the recipient. Any amount specifically excluded under other applicable rules must also be documented.
The fair market value, which is determined based on all the facts and circumstances, is generally the amount that an individual would have to pay for parking at the same or a comparable site in an arm’s length transaction.
Tips for auditors
The IRS webpage also provides tips for its auditors, who could encounter qualified parking benefits as part of their examinations. Auditors are advised to:
Valuation issues generally arise with respect to qualified parking only where it’s provided “in-kind” by the employer — in other words, where the employer provides parking at its own lot.
If your company provides a qualified parking benefit, be sure to thoroughly document how you determine the value of that benefit. You’ll need to produce the documentation if you get audited. We can help you prepare for and fulfill your obligations during an IRS audit, as well as assist you in choosing fringe benefits and keeping accurate records of those you provide.
When you filed your federal tax return this year, were you surprised to find you owed money? You might want to change your withholding so that this doesn’t happen again next year. You might even want to adjust your withholding if you got a big refund. Receiving a tax refund essentially means you’re giving the government an interest-free loan.
Adjust if necessary
Taxpayers should periodically review their tax situations and adjust withholding, if appropriate.
The IRS has a withholding calculator to assist you in conducting a paycheck checkup. The calculator reflects tax law changes in areas such as available itemized deductions, the child credit, the dependent credit and the repeal of dependent exemptions. You can access the IRS calculator here: https://bit.ly/33iBcZV
There are some situations when you should check your withholding. In addition to tax law changes, the IRS recommends that you perform a checkup if you:
You can modify your withholding at any time during the year, or even multiple times within a year. To do so, you simply submit a new Form W-4 to your employer. Changes typically go into effect several weeks after a new Form W-4 is submitted. (For estimated tax payments, you can make adjustments each time quarterly estimated payments are due. The next payments for 2022 are due on September 15, 2022, and January 16, 2023.)
Plan ahead now
There’s still time to remedy any shortfalls to minimize taxes due for 2022, as well as any penalties and interest. Contact us if you have any questions or need assistance. We can help you determine if you need to adjust your withholding.
These days, most businesses have websites. But surprisingly, the IRS hasn’t issued formal guidance on when website costs can be deducted.
Fortunately, established rules that generally apply to the deductibility of business costs provide business taxpayers launching a website with some guidance as to the proper treatment of the costs. Plus, businesses can turn to IRS guidance that applies to software costs.
Hardware versus software
Let’s start with the hardware you may need to operate a website. The costs fall under the standard rules for depreciable equipment. Specifically, once these assets are operating, you can deduct 100% of the cost in the first year they’re placed in service (before 2023). This favorable treatment is allowed under the 100% first-year bonus depreciation break. Note: The bonus depreciation rate will begin to be phased down for property placed in service after calendar year 2022.
In later years, you can probably deduct 100% of these costs in the year the assets are placed in service under the Section 179 first-year depreciation deduction privilege. However, Sec. 179 deductions are subject to several limitations.
For tax years beginning in 2022, the maximum Sec. 179 deduction is $1.08 million, subject to a phaseout rule. Under the rule, the deduction is phased out if more than a specified amount ($2.7 million for 2022) of qualified property is placed in service during the year.
There’s also a taxable income limit. Under it, your Sec. 179 deduction can’t exceed your business taxable income. In other words, Sec. 179 deductions can’t create or increase an overall tax loss. However, any Sec. 179 deduction amount that you can’t immediately deduct is carried forward and can be deducted in later years (to the extent permitted by the applicable limits).
Similar rules apply to purchased off-the-shelf software. However, software license fees are treated differently from purchased software costs for tax purposes. Payments for leased or licensed software used for your website are currently deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Software developed internally
If, instead of being purchased, the website is designed in-house by the taxpayer launching the website (or designed by a contractor who isn’t at risk if the software doesn’t perform), for tax years beginning before calendar year 2022, bonus depreciation applies to the extent described above. If bonus depreciation doesn’t apply, the taxpayer can either:
For tax years beginning after calendar year 2021, generally the only allowable treatment will be to amortize the costs over the five-year period beginning with the midpoint of the tax year in which the expenditures are paid or incurred.
If your website is primarily for advertising, you can currently deduct internal website software development costs as ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Paying a third party
Some companies hire third parties to set up and run their websites. In general, payments to third parties are currently deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.
Before business begins
Start-up expenses can include website development costs. Up to $5,000 of otherwise deductible expenses that are incurred before your business commences can generally be deducted in the year business commences. However, if your start-up expenses exceed $50,000, the $5,000 current deduction limit starts to be chipped away. Above this amount, you must capitalize some, or all, of your start-up expenses and amortize them over 60 months, starting with the month that business commences.
We can help
We can determine the appropriate treatment of website costs. Contact us if you want more information.
Competition among employers for many types of employees remains fierce. For hard-to-fill positions, you might need to expand the search beyond your organization’s local geographic area. You may even have to offer financial incentives to lure applicants.
Although signing bonuses are an obvious choice, a strong relocation package could give you an edge in reeling in the best job candidates.
Costs to consider
The purpose of a relocation package is to ease the financial and logistical strain of moving on a new hire. This benefit can range from a simple cash reimbursement to a lavish array of perks most often reserved for top execs.
When creating a package, it’s critical to establish a firm budget for the costs you’re willing and able to cover. Generally, relocation packages include coverage for moving services and transportation (such as airfare). But there are many other perks you could add, including:
The size and shape of a relocation package tends to depend on an employer’s industry. The benefit you offer must be competitive with those of similar organizations in your area or it probably won’t give you the hiring edge you’re looking for.
Relocation expenses are currently deductible for the employer and taxable to the employee, similar to how bonuses are treated.
Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, the way that moving expenses were reported — and the tax impact — depended on the type of plan that an employer used. “Accountable” plans, which followed certain IRS rules, allowed employers to fully deduct payments while employees weren’t subject to taxation, including payroll tax. This made such plans highly favorable from a tax perspective, though they required more administrative effort.
Under a “nonaccountable plan,” pre-TCJA relocation payments were treated similarly to how a bonus would be reported and much like how the payments are now treated. That is, they were taxable compensation subject to both income tax and payroll tax. Employees could, however, deduct moving expenses — which substantially mitigated the tax impact.
The TCJA eliminated the moving expense deduction for all employees other than active-duty military members. Keep in mind, though, that this TCJA provision is scheduled to sunset after 2025.
Going the extra mile
Nowadays, employers often have to go the extra mile to win over optimal job candidates — many of whom could live hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Our firm can help you decide whether a relocation package is a good benefits choice for your organization.
Business owners often find the greatest obstacle to innovation isn’t the change itself, but employees’ resistance to it. Their hesitation or outright defiance is frequently driven by fear.
Some workers might worry about how the innovation will alter their jobs — or whether it will even eliminate their positions. Others could reject the concept and believe that the change will hurt, rather than help, the company.
To better ensure the success of your next innovative project, you’ll need to ease the fears and win the support of your employees. Here are six steps that can help:
1. Create a communications strategy. As specifically as possible, describe the innovation’s purpose and expected impact. For example, if you’re implementing a new software platform, let employees know how the innovation will help the business. Will it streamline operations? Open new markets? Bolster the company’s reputation as an innovator?
From there, explain how the innovation will affect and improve employees’ jobs. Going back to our example, this could mean pointing out how the software platform eliminates longstanding redundancies, improves data capture and security, and “upskills” employees’ tech savvy.
Be transparent about how a change could present initial challenges. For instance, suppose a new accounts payable system will simplify invoice processing, but it will also mean employees need to substantially alter their workflows. Let workers know how you’ll revise processes, as well as the steps you’ll take to help them with the transition.
2. Solicit input. Long before rolling out an innovation, ask employees at all levels and departments about the concept and, over time, the details. Doing so might start with issuing an employee survey and then later holding “town hall” meetings to discuss how the project is evolving.
Remember, the more often workers can provide input, the more likely they are to buy in to the change. And the discussions could yield insights that prove invaluable to the innovation’s success.
3. Assemble an implementation team. The team should include a leader, typically a management-level employee, who understands your company culture and can navigate the bureaucratic landscape. It should also include at least one “champion” — ideally, a lower-level worker who can help win the hearts and minds of fellow rank-and-file employees.
4. Provide training. As feasible and relevant, plan to offer training related to the innovation. Be sure to factor this into the budget. Employees often fear a major change because they’re unsure they’ll be able to master a new process or technology. Provide the education and resources they’ll need to successfully adapt.
5. Start small. Many businesses conduct a “beta test” well before the full rollout. This essentially means asking a small group of employees to try the innovation so you can catch oversights and fix glitches. Doing so can not only prevent disappointment or even disaster, but also build excitement about the big change as word spreads about how enjoyable and effective it is.
6. Ask for help. Many small to midsize companies lack the staff and resources to design and implement a major innovation. You might need to allocate some of the project budget to outside consultants. Contact us for help creating that budget, as well as weighing the costs vs. benefits of any innovation you’re considering.
When you take withdrawals from your traditional IRA, you probably know that they’re taxable. But there may be a penalty tax on early withdrawals depending on how old you are when you take them and what you do with the money.
Important: Once you reach a certain age, you must start taking required minimum distributions from your traditional IRAs to avoid a different tax penalty. Previously, the required beginning date (RBD) was April 1 of the year after the year in which you turn 70½. However, a 2019 law changed the RBD to 72 for individuals who reach age 70½ after 2019.
But what if you want to take an “early” withdrawal, defined as one taken before age 59½? You’ll be hit with a 10% penalty tax unless an exception applies. This 10% early withdrawal penalty tax is on top of the regular income tax you’ll owe on the distribution.
Exceptions to the general rule
Fortunately, there are several exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty tax if you use the money for certain things. Common examples include:
There’s also an exception to the early withdrawal penalty tax if you take annuity-like annual withdrawals under IRS guidelines. If distributions are made as part of a series of “substantially equal periodic payments” over your life expectancy or the life expectancies of you and your designated beneficiary, the tax doesn’t apply.
Be careful with rollovers
Be aware that the early withdrawal penalty may come into play if you’re moving funds out of an account. You can roll over funds from one IRA to another tax-free so long as you complete the rollover within 60 days. What if you miss the deadline? You may owe tax and the early withdrawal penalty if you’re younger than age 59½. (The IRS may waive the penalty if there are extenuating circumstances.)
We can help
We can tell you if you’re eligible for the exceptions described above or other exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal penalty tax. Be sure to keep good records so you can prove your eligibility.
Sometimes, bigger isn’t better: Your small- or medium-sized business may be eligible for some tax breaks that aren’t available to larger businesses. Here are some examples.
1. QBI deduction
For 2018 through 2025, the qualified business income (QBI) deduction is available to eligible individuals, trusts and estates. But it’s not available to C corporations or their shareholders.
The QBI deduction can be up to 20% of:
Pass-through business entities report tax items to their owners, who then take them into account on their owner-level returns. The QBI deduction rules are complicated, and the deduction can be phased out at higher income levels.
2. Eligibility for cash-method accounting
Businesses that are eligible to use the cash method of accounting for tax purposes have the ability to fine-tune annual taxable income. This is accomplished by timing the year in which you recognize taxable income and claim deductions.
Under the cash method, you generally don’t have to recognize taxable income until you’re paid in cash. And you can generally write off deductible expenses when you pay them in cash or with a credit card.
Only “small” businesses are potentially eligible for the cash method. For this purpose under current law, a small business includes one that has no more than $25 million of average annual gross receipts, based on the preceding three tax years. This limit is adjusted annually for inflation. For tax years beginning in 2022, the limit is $27 million.
3. Section 179 deduction
The Sec. 179 first-year depreciation deduction potentially allows you to write off some (or all) of your qualified asset additions in the first year they’re placed in service. It's available for both new and used property.
For qualified property placed in service in tax years 2018 and beyond, the deduction rules are much more favorable than under prior law. Enhancements include:
Higher deduction. The Sec. 179 deduction has been permanently increased to $1 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the maximum is $1.08 million.
Liberalized phase-out. The threshold above which the maximum Sec. 179 deduction begins to be phased out is $2.5 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the phase-out begins at $2.7 million.
The phase-out rule kicks in only if your additions of assets that are eligible for the deduction for the year exceed the threshold for that year. If they exceed the threshold, your maximum deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the excess. Sec. 179 deductions are also subject to other limitations.
While Sec. 179 deductions may be limited, those limitations don’t apply to first-year bonus depreciation deductions. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, 100% first-year bonus depreciation is available. After this year, the first-year bonus depreciation percentages are scheduled to start going down to 80% for qualified assets placed in service in 2023. They will continue to be reduced until they reach 0% for 2028 and later years.
Contact us to determine if you’re taking advantage of all available tax breaks, including those that are available to small and large businesses alike.
Many people wonder how they can save taxes by transferring assets into their children’s names. This tax strategy is called income shifting. It seeks to take income out of your higher tax bracket and place it in the lower tax brackets of your children.
While some tax savings are available through this approach, the “kiddie tax” rules impose substantial limitations if:
The kiddie tax rules apply to your children who are under the cutoff age(s) described above, and who have more than a certain amount of unearned (investment) income for the tax year — $2,300 for 2022. While some tax savings on up to this amount can still be achieved by shifting income to children under the cutoff age, the savings aren’t substantial.
If the kiddie tax rules apply to your children and they have over the prescribed amount of unearned income for the tax year ($2,300 for 2022), they’ll be taxed on that excess amount at your (the parents’) tax rates if your rates are higher than the children’s tax rates. This kiddie tax is calculated by computing the “allocable parental tax” and special allocation rules apply if the parents have more than one child subject to the kiddie tax.
Note: Different rules applied for the 2018 and 2019 tax years, when the kiddie tax was computed based on the estates’ and trusts’ ordinary and capital gain rates, instead of the parents’ tax rates.
Be aware that, to transfer income to a child, you must transfer ownership of the asset producing the income. You can’t merely transfer the income itself. Property can be transferred to minor children using custodial accounts under state law.
Possible saving vehicles
The portion of investment income of a child that’s taxed under the kiddie tax rules may be reduced or eliminated if the child invests in vehicles that produce little or no current taxable income. These include:
Investments that produce no taxable income — and which therefore aren’t subject to the kiddie tax — also include tax-advantaged savings vehicles such as:
A child’s earned income (as opposed to investment income) is taxed at the child’s regular tax rates, regardless of the amount. Therefore, to save taxes within the family, consider employing the child at your own business and paying reasonable compensation.
If the kiddie tax applies, it’s computed and reported on Form 8615, which is attached to the child’s tax return.
Two reporting options
Parents can elect to include the child’s income on their own return if certain requirements are satisfied. This is done on Form 8814 and avoids the need for a separate return for the child. Contact us if you have questions about the kiddie tax.
A business or individual might be able to dispose of appreciated real property without being taxed on the gain by exchanging it rather than selling it. You can defer tax on your gain through a “like-kind” or Section 1031 exchange.
A like-kind exchange is a swap of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business for like-kind investment real property or business real property. For these purposes, “like-kind” is very broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale. If you’re unsure whether the property involved in your exchange is eligible for a like-kind exchange, contact us to discuss the matter.
Here’s how the tax rules work
If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still have to report the exchange on a form that is attached to your tax return.
However, the properties often aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other (non-like-kind) property is thrown into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.
Here’s an example
Let’s say you exchange land (investment property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (investment property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain: the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in the new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000, which is your original basis in the relinquished property you gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.
Note: No matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.
If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to him or her giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).
Like-kind exchanges can be complex but they’re a good tax-deferred way to dispose of investment or trade or business assets. We can answer any additional questions you have or assist with the transaction.
Like a slowly gathering storm, inflation has gone from dark clouds on the horizon to a noticeable downpour on both the U.S. and global economies. Is it time for business owners to panic?
Not at all. As of this writing, a full-blown recession is possible but not an absolute certainty. And the impact of inflation itself will vary depending on your industry and the financial strength of your company. Here are some important points to keep in mind during this difficult time.
For starters, don’t expect any dramatic moves by the federal government. Some smaller steps, however, have been taken.
For instance, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to “pump the brakes” on the U.S. economy. And the IRS recently announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate tax deduction for the last six months of 2022 (July 1 through December 31). The rate for business travel is now 62.5 cents per mile — up from 58.5 cents per mile for the first half of 2022.
This is notable because the IRS usually adjusts mileage rates only once annually at year-end. The tax agency explained: “in recognition of recent gasoline price increases, [we’ve] made this special adjustment for the final months of 2022.”
Otherwise, major tax relief this year is highly unlikely. Some tax breaks are inflation-adjusted — for example, the Section 179 depreciation deduction. However, these amounts were calculated at the end of 2021, so they probably won’t keep up with 2022 inflation. What’s more, many other parts of the tax code aren’t indexed for inflation.
So, what can you do? First, approach price increases thoughtfully. When inflation strikes, raising your prices might seem unavoidable. After all, if suppliers are charging you more, your profit margin narrows — and the risk of a cash flow crisis goes way up. Just be sure to adjust prices carefully with a close eye on the competition.
Second, take a hard look at your budget and see whether you can reduce or eliminate nonessential expenses. Inflationary times lead many business owners to try to run their companies as leanly as possible. In fact, if you can cut enough costs, you might not need to raise prices much, if at all — a competitive advantage in today’s environment.
Last, consider the bold strategy of taking a growth-oriented approach in response to inflation. That’s right; if you’re in a strong enough cash position, your business could increase its investments in marketing and production to generate more revenue and outpace price escalations. This is a “high risk, high reward” move, however.
Again, the optimal moves for your company will depend on a multitude of factors related to your industry, size, mission and market. One thing’s for sure: Inflation to some degree is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t get out of control. We can help you generate, organize and analyze the financial information you need to make sound business decisions.
Sales and registrations of electric vehicles (EVs) have increased dramatically in the U.S. in 2022, according to several sources. However, while they’re still a small percentage of the cars on the road today, they’re increasing in popularity all the time.
If you buy one, you may be eligible for a federal tax break. The tax code provides a credit to purchasers of qualifying plug-in electric drive motor vehicles including passenger vehicles and light trucks. The credit is equal to $2,500 plus an additional amount, based on battery capacity, that can’t exceed $5,000. Therefore, the maximum credit allowed for a qualifying EV is $7,500.
Be aware that not all EVs are eligible for the tax break, as we’ll describe below.
The EV definition
For purposes of the tax credit, a qualifying vehicle is defined as one with four wheels that’s propelled to a significant extent by an electric motor, which draws electricity from a battery. The battery must have a capacity of not less than four kilowatt hours and be capable of being recharged from an external source of electricity.
The credit may not be available because of a per-manufacturer cumulative sales limitation. Specifically, it phases out over six quarters beginning when a manufacturer has sold at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009). For example, Tesla and General Motors vehicles are no longer eligible for the tax credit. And Toyota is the latest auto manufacturer to sell enough plug-in EVs to trigger a gradual phase out of federal tax incentives for certain models sold in the U.S.
Several automakers are telling Congress to eliminate the limit. In a letter, GM, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota asked Congressional leaders to give all electric car and light truck buyers a tax credit of up to $7,500. The group says that lifting the limit would give buyers more choices, encourage greater EV adoption and provide stability to autoworkers.
The IRS provides a list of qualifying vehicles on its website and it recently added some eligible models. You can access the list here: https://bit.ly/2DJVArE .
Here are some additional points about the plug-in electric vehicle tax credit:
These are only the basic rules. There may be additional incentives provided by your state. If you want more information about the federal plug-in electric vehicle tax break, contact us.
Sadly, many businesses have been forced to shut down recently due to the pandemic and the economy. If this is your situation, we can assist you, including taking care of the various tax responsibilities that must be met.
Of course, a business must file a final income tax return and some other related forms for the year it closes its doors. The type of return to be filed depends on the type of business you have. Here’s a rundown of the basic requirements.
Sole proprietorships. You’ll need to file the usual Schedule C, “Profit or Loss from Business,” with your individual return for the year you close the business. You may also need to report self-employment tax.
Partnerships. A partnership must file Form 1065, “U.S. Return of Partnership Income,” for the year it closes. You also must report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate that this is the final return and do the same on Schedule K-1, “Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.”
All corporations. Form 966, “Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation,” must be filed if you adopt a resolution or plan to dissolve a corporation or liquidate any of its stock.
C corporations. File Form 1120, “U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return,” for the year you close. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate this is the final return.
S corporations. File Form 1120-S, “U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation,” for the year of closing. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. The “final return” box must be checked on Schedule K-1.
All businesses. Other forms may need to be filed to report sales of business property and asset acquisitions if you sell your business.
Employees and contract workers
If you have employees, you must pay them final wages and compensation owed, make final federal tax deposits and report employment taxes. Failure to withhold or deposit employee income, Social Security and Medicare taxes can result in full personal liability for what’s known as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.
If you’ve paid any contractors at least $600 during the calendar year in which you close your business, you must report those payments on Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation.”
Other tax issues
If your business has a retirement plan for employees, you’ll want to terminate the plan and distribute benefits to participants. There are detailed notice, funding, timing and filing requirements that must be met by a terminating plan. There are also complex requirements related to flexible spending accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and other programs for your employees.
We can assist you with many other complicated tax issues related to closing your business, including debt cancellation, use of net operating losses, freeing up any remaining passive activity losses, depreciation recapture, and possible bankruptcy issues.
We can advise you on the length of time you need to keep business records. You also must cancel your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and close your IRS business account.
If your business is unable to pay all the taxes it owes, we can explain the available payment options to you. Contact us to discuss these issues and get answers to any questions.
If you’ve recently begun receiving disability income, you may wonder how it’s taxed. The answer is: It depends.
The key issue is: Who paid for the benefit? If the income is paid directly to you by your employer, it’s taxable to you just as your ordinary salary would be. (Taxable benefits are also subject to federal income tax withholding. However, depending on the employer’s disability plan, in some cases they aren’t subject to Social Security tax.)
Frequently, the payments aren’t made by an employer but by an insurance company under a policy providing disability coverage. In other cases, they’re made under an arrangement having the effect of accident or health insurance. In these cases, the tax treatment depends on who paid for the insurance coverage. If your employer paid for it, then the income is taxed to you just as if it was paid directly to you by the employer. On the other hand, if it’s a policy you paid for, the payments you receive under it aren’t taxable.
Even if your employer arranges for the coverage (in a policy made available to you at work), the benefits aren’t taxed to you if you (and not your employer) pay the premiums. For these purposes, if the premiums are paid by the employer but the amount paid is included as part of your taxable income from work, the premiums will be treated as paid by you. In these cases, the tax treatment of the benefits received depends on the tax treatment of the premiums paid.
Let’s say Max’s salary is $1,000 a week ($52,000 a year). Additionally, under a disability insurance arrangement made available to him by his employer, $10 a week ($520 annually) is paid on his behalf by his employer to an insurance company. Max includes $52,520 in income as his wages for the year ($52,000 paid to him plus $520 in disability insurance premiums). Under these facts, the insurance is treated as paid for by Max. If he becomes disabled and receives benefits under the policy, the benefits aren’t taxable income to him.
Now assume that Max includes only $52,000 in income as his wages for the year because the amount paid for the insurance coverage qualifies as excludable under the rules for employer-provided health and accident plans. In this case, the insurance is treated as paid for by the employer. If Max becomes disabled and receives benefits under the policy, the benefits are taxable income to him.
There are special rules if there is a permanent loss (or loss of the use) of a member or function of the body or a permanent disfigurement. In these cases, employer disability payments aren’t taxed, as long as they aren’t computed based on amount of time lost from work.
Social Security disability benefits
This discussion doesn’t cover the tax treatment of Social Security disability benefits. They may be taxed to you under the rules that govern Social Security benefits.
In deciding how much disability coverage you need to protect yourself and your family, take the tax treatment into consideration. If you’re buying the policy yourself, you only have to replace your “after tax” (take-home) income because your benefits won’t be taxed. On the other hand, if your employer is paying for the benefit, keep in mind that you’ll lose a percentage of it to taxes. If your current coverage is insufficient, you may want to supplement the employer benefit with a policy you take out on your own. Contact us if you’d like to discuss this issue.
Like many businesses, yours has probably jumped aboard the cloud computing bandwagon … or “skywagon” as the case may be. How’s that going? Some business owners pay little to no attention to a cloud provider once the service is in place. Others realize, perhaps years later, that they’re not particularly satisfied with the costs, features and cybersecurity measures of their cloud vendors.
Given the value of the data and documents that you store in the cloud, it’s a good idea to occasionally review your provider and determine whether you’re still making a good investment.
Are you getting these benefits?
As you’re likely aware, cloud computing providers offer a secure network of third-party servers that you, the customer, can access online. Thus, rather than relying on your own computers or servers, you can remotely store, process, manage and share documents and data. You might also have access to various software. Here are the benefits that you should be enjoying:
Lower costs. Cloud customers typically pay a monthly subscription fee or are billed based on actual usage. Reputable providers regularly upgrade their offerings and provide free security patches.
Scalability. You should be able to scale up or down as your data storage or processing needs change. For example, you might generate more data during seasonal peaks.
Convenience. Cloud services shouldn’t be limited to certain geographic areas or within restricted time frames. You should be able to access your documents and data from anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Many of today’s cloud providers also allow businesses to share documents and data with vendors to facilitate production and streamline workflow, as well as to provide some level of access to authorized advisors or other parties such as lenders.
How secure are you?
Serious concerns about cybersecurity in every industry have caused many business owners to “do a double take” when it comes to cloud computing. So, first and foremost, when evaluating your provider or shopping for a new one, verify basic security features. These include firewalls, authorization restrictions and data encryption. Also investigate:
Reputable providers offer continuous data backup and disaster recovery capabilities, so you shouldn’t have to worry about losing important records because of a physical server failure or a lost or broken hard drive. But, beware, the language of your service agreement might leave you ultimately responsible for any data breach. Consider negotiating restitution clauses into your contract.
Cloud services are just like any other technology investment — the features and security risks will evolve over time and call for regular reassessment. Let us assist you in weighing the costs, risks and advantages of your cloud provider.
It’s not just businesses that can deduct vehicle-related expenses on their tax returns. Individuals also can deduct them in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, under current law, you may not be able to deduct as much as you could years ago.
For years prior to 2018, miles driven for business, moving, medical and charitable purposes were potentially deductible. For 2018 through 2025, business and moving miles are deductible only in much more limited circumstances. The changes were a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which could also affect your tax benefit from medical and charitable miles.
Fortunately, if you’re eligible to deduct driving costs, the IRS just increased the standard amounts for the second half of 2022 due to the high price of gas.
Current vs. past limits
Before 2018, if you were an employee, you potentially could deduct business mileage not reimbursed by your employer as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. But the deduction was subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) floor, which meant that mileage was deductible only to the extent that your total miscellaneous itemized deductions for the year exceeded 2% of your AGI. However, for 2018 through 2025, you can’t deduct the mileage regardless of your AGI. Why? The TCJA suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor.
If you’re self-employed, business mileage can be deducted from self-employment income. Therefore, it’s not subject to the 2% floor and is still deductible for 2018 through 2025, as long as it otherwise qualifies.
Miles driven for a work-related move prior to 2018 were generally deductible “above the line” (that is, itemizing wasn’t required to claim the deduction). But for 2018 through 2025, under the TCJA, moving expenses are deductible only for active-duty members of the military.
Miles driven for health-care-related purposes are deductible as part of the medical expense itemized deduction. For example, you can include in medical expenses the amounts paid when you use a car to travel to doctors’ appointments. For 2022, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your AGI.
The limits for deducting expenses for charitable miles driven haven’t changed, but keep in mind that the charitable driving deduction can only be claimed if you itemize. For 2018 through 2025, the standard deduction has been nearly doubled so not as many taxpayers are itemizing. Depending on your total itemized deductions, you might be better off claiming the standard deduction, in which case you’ll get no tax benefit from your charitable miles (or from your medical miles, even if you exceed the AGI floor).
Different mileage rates
Rather than keeping track of your actual vehicle expenses, you can use a standard mileage rate to compute your deductions. The 2022 rates vary depending on the purpose:
In addition to deductions based on the standard mileage rate, you may deduct related parking fees and tolls. There are also substantiation requirements, which include tracking miles driven.
Do you have questions about deducting vehicle-related expenses? Contact us. We can help you with your tax planning.
What are the requirements for employers regarding federal employment taxes? This might seem like a silly question to ask of employers, many of which have been grappling with this obligation for years or even decades.
But, just as a coat of paint sometimes needs freshening up, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally review the basics of employment taxes to see whether your organization’s processes are at risk of missing any key steps, which could lead to costly penalties.
Employers must report and deposit certain employment taxes regularly. These include:
Typically, an organization reports FITW, Social Security, Medicare and Additional Medicare taxes on Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.” FUTA is reported on Form 940, Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return.
True to its name, Form 941 is filed quarterly and due by the last day of the month following the end of each quarter. Typically, the due dates for filing this form are:
If any deposit due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, you may deposit on the next business day.
For smaller employers with a low employment tax liability, the IRS will allow for the annual deposit and filing of these taxes. Such employers use Form 944, “Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”
Employment tax deposits
While Form 941 is filed quarterly, employment tax deposits are typically submitted more frequently unless the employer is a Form 944 filer. This frequency can either be semiweekly or monthly. Which one is determined through a “lookback period.” This is the total tax liability for an employer for the previous four quarters — July 1 of the second preceding calendar year through June 30 of the preceding calendar year.
If an employer reports $50,000 or less of Form 941 taxes for the lookback period, it’s a monthly schedule depositor. On the other hand, if an employer reports more than $50,000, it’s a semiweekly schedule depositor.
A notable exception
An exception applies to these deposit schedules if an employer accumulates tax liability of $100,000 or more on any day during a deposit period. This often happens around bonus time for some employers or when pay increases kick in.
When this happens, the employer must deposit the tax by the close of the next business day, regardless of whether the employer is a monthly or semiweekly depositor. And if the employer is a monthly depositor, it becomes a semiweekly depositor.
Maintain your processes
If all of this sounds completely obvious, that’s a good thing! Your organization is likely on top of its employment tax obligations. Nonetheless, keep a close eye on these processes to ensure they don’t fall into disrepair. Contact us for more information on either the basics or more complex matters related to payroll or employment taxes.
Is your business hiring? Many companies are — in fact, an employment report released by the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month revealed that nonfarm payrolls increased by 390,000 in May, and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%.
As the job market continues to feel the impact of “the Great Resignation,” the competition for talent remains fierce. One area of the hiring pool that many businesses overlook is older workers. If your company still has open positions, consider the possibility of filling them with workers age 55 and up.
Strengths to look for
Although it’s true that many Baby Boomers have retired, and a few members of Generation X might soon be joining them, plenty of older workers remain available to provide value to the right company.
They offer many benefits. For starters, they’ve lived and worked through many economic ups and downs, so the word “budget” tends to keenly resonate with them. In addition, many are well connected in their fields and can reach out to helpful resources right away. Seasoned workers tend to be self-motivated and need little supervision, too.
How to welcome them
Adding older employees to a workforce predominantly staffed by Gen Xers, Millennials and perhaps members of Generation Z (currently the youngest group) can present challenges to your company culture. However, there are ways to welcome older workers while easing the transition for everyone.
First, ensure internal communications emphasize inclusivity. If you’re concerned that your existing culture might hinder the onboarding process for older workers, begin addressing the potential obstacles before hiring anyone, if possible. Reassure current employees that you’ll continue to value their contributions and empower their career paths.
Second, consider involving other staff members in the hiring process. For example, you could ask those who will work directly with a new hire to sit in on the initial job interviews. You’ll likely experience less resistance if an older employee’s co-workers are involved from the beginning. Just be sure that every participant understands proper interviewing techniques to avoid legal problems.
Third, as appropriate and feasible, offer training to managers who might suddenly find themselves supervising employees with many more years of work experience. Learning to listen to an older worker’s suggestions while sticking to the company’s strategic objectives and operational procedures isn’t always easy.
Finally, consider a mentorship program. Bringing in new employees of a different age group is an opportune time to investigate the potential benefits of mentoring. By pairing newly hired older workers with younger staff members, you could see both groups learn from each other — and the business grow as a result.
A welcome addition
Older workers are often a welcome addition to many companies — and not just as full-time employees. They tend to fit in well as part- or flex-time workers as well. Need help? We can assist you in assessing this idea or other ways to improve the cost-effectiveness of your hiring efforts.
Are you in the early stages of divorce? In addition to the tough personal issues that you’re dealing with, several tax concerns need to be addressed to ensure that taxes are kept to a minimum and that important tax-related decisions are properly made. Here are five issues to consider if you’re in the process of getting a divorce.
A variety of other issues
These are just some of the issues you may have to deal with if you’re getting a divorce. In addition, you must decide how to file your tax return (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately or head of household). You may need to adjust your income tax withholding and you should notify the IRS of any new address or name change. There are also estate planning considerations. We can help you work through all of the financial issues involved in divorce.
Business owners are aware that the price of gas is historically high, which has made their vehicle costs soar. The average nationwide price of a gallon of unleaded regular gas on June 17 was $5, compared with $3.08 a year earlier, according to the AAA Gas Prices website. A gallon of diesel averaged $5.78 a gallon, compared with $3.21 a year earlier.
Fortunately, the IRS is providing some relief. The tax agency announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate for the last six months of 2022. Taxpayers may use the optional cents-per-mile rate to calculate the deductible costs of operating a vehicle for business.
For the second half of 2022 (July 1–December 31), the standard mileage rate for business travel will be 62.5 cents per mile, up from 58.5 cents per mile for the first half of the year (January 1–June 30). There are different standard mileage rates for charitable and medical driving.
Raising the standard mileage rate in the middle of the year is unusual. Normally, the IRS updates the mileage rates once a year at the end of the year for the next calendar year. However, the tax agency explained that “in recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2022.” But while the move is uncommon, it’s not without precedent. The standard mileage rate was increased for the last six months of 2011 and 2008 after gas prices rose significantly.
While fuel costs are a significant factor in the mileage figure, the IRS notes that “other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.”
The optional standard mileage rate is one of two methods a business can use to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business puroses. Taxpayers also have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicles rather than using the standard mileage rate. This may include expenses such as gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses, vehicle registration fees and a depreciation allowance for the vehicle.
From a tax standpoint, you may get a larger deduction by tracking the actual expense method than you would with the standard mileage rate. But many taxpayers don’t want to spend time tracking actual costs. Be aware that there are rules that may prevent you from using one method or the other. For example, if a business wants to use the standard mileage rate for a car it leases, the business must use this rate for the entire lease period. Consult with us about your particular circumstances to determine the best course of action.
Accounts payable is a critical area of concern for every business. However, as a back-office function, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Once in place, accounts payable processes tend to get taken for granted. Following are some tips and best practices for improving your company’s approach.
Too often, businesses take a reactive approach to payables, simply delaying payments as long as possible to improve short-term cash flow. But this approach can backfire if it puts you on bad terms with vendors.
Poor vendor relationships can affect delivery times, service quality and payment terms. A proactive, strategic approach to payables can help you strike a balance between optimizing short-term cash flow and getting along well with vendors.
It’s also critical to explore the potential benefits of early payment discounts, volume discounts or other incentives that can eventually improve cash flow. That doesn’t mean you should accept every available discount. Obviously, the decision hinges on whether the long-term benefits of the discount outweigh the immediate cost of, for example, paying early or buying in bulk.
Strengthen selection and review
Implement policies, procedures and systems to ensure that you properly vet vendors and negotiate the best possible prices and payment terms. Create preferred vendor lists so staff members follow established procedures and don’t engage in “maverick” buying — that is, purchasing from unauthorized vendors.
Review vendor contracts regularly, too. Create and maintain a database of key contractual terms that’s readily accessible to everyone. With an understanding of payment terms and other important contractual provisions, employees can use it to double-check vendor compliance and avoid errors that can result in overpayments or duplicate payments.
Automating accounts payable with the right software offers many benefits. For one thing, an automated, paperless system can increase efficiency, reduce costs and speed up invoice processing. And, of course, the ability to pay invoices electronically makes it easier to take advantage of available discounts.
In addition, automation can provide greater visibility of payables and better control over payments. For instance, cloud-based systems provide immediate access to account information, allowing you to review and approve invoices from anywhere at any time. The best automated systems also contain security controls that help prevent and detect fraud and errors.
Naturally, there’s an upfront cost to buying good accounts payable software and training your staff to use it. You’ll need to find a solution that suits your company’s size, needs and technological sophistication. You’ll also incur ongoing costs to maintain the system and keep it updated.
Pay attention to payables
Don’t underestimate the impact of accounts payable on the financial performance of your business. Taking a “continuous improvement” approach can enhance cash flow and boost profitability. Let us help you devise strategies for the optimal tracking and handling of outgoing payments.
As a result of the current estate tax exemption amount ($12.06 million in 2022), many people no longer need to be concerned with federal estate tax. Before 2011, a much smaller amount resulted in estate plans attempting to avoid it. Now, because many estates won’t be subject to estate tax, more planning can be devoted to saving income taxes for your heirs.
Note: The federal estate tax exclusion amount is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2025. Beginning on January 1, 2026, the amount is due to be reduced to $5 million, adjusted for inflation. Of course, Congress could act to extend the higher amount or institute a new amount.
Here are some strategies to consider in light of the current large exemption amount.
Gifts that use the annual exclusion
One of the benefits of using the gift tax annual exclusion to make transfers during life is to save estate tax. This is because both the transferred assets and any post-transfer appreciation generated by those assets are removed from the donor’s estate.
As mentioned, estate tax savings may not be an issue because of the large estate exemption amount. Further, making an annual exclusion transfer of appreciated property carries a potential income tax cost because the recipient receives the donor’s basis upon transfer. Thus, the recipient could face income tax, in the form of capital gains tax, on the sale of the gifted property in the future. If there’s no concern that an estate will be subject to estate tax, even if the gifted property grows in value, then the decision to make a gift should be based on other factors.
For example, gifts may be made to help a relative buy a home or start a business. But a donor shouldn’t gift appreciated property because of the capital gains that could be realized on a future sale by the recipient. If the appreciated property is held until the donor’s death, under current law, the heir will get a step-up in basis that will wipe out the capital gains tax on any pre-death appreciation in the property’s value.
Years ago, spouses often undertook complicated strategies to equalize their estates so that each could take advantage of the estate tax exemption amount. Generally, a two-trust plan was established to minimize estate tax. “Portability,” or the ability to apply the decedent’s unused exclusion amount to the surviving spouse’s transfers during life and at death, became effective for estates of decedents dying after 2010. As long as the election is made, portability allows the surviving spouse to apply the unused portion of a decedent’s applicable exclusion amount (the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount) as calculated in the year of the decedent’s death. The portability election gives married couples more flexibility in deciding how to use their exclusion amounts.
Estate or valuation discounts
Be aware that some estate exclusion or valuation discount strategies to avoid inclusion of property in an estate may no longer be worth pursuing. It may be better to have the property included in the estate or not qualify for valuation discounts so that the property receives a step-up in basis. For example, the special use valuation — the valuation of qualified real property used for farming or in a business on the basis of the property’s actual use, rather than on its highest and best use — may not save enough, or any, estate tax to justify giving up the step-up in basis that would otherwise occur for the property.
Contact us if you want to discuss these strategies and how they relate to your estate plan.
Under a leave-sharing program, employees can elect to forgo vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for cash payments made by their employers to qualifying charitable organizations. These arrangements have been around for a while, but they’ve gotten more attention in recent years as some employers have launched leave-sharing programs to aid those adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters.
Recently, in Notice 2022-28, the IRS announced special tax relief for leave-based donation programs set up to aid victims of the “further Russian invasion of Ukraine,” which began on February 24, 2022. Here are some pertinent details.
Tax issues addressed
Ordinarily, leave-based charitable donations must be included in a donating employee’s income. In addition, the opportunity to elect such contributions usually raises the concern that eligible employees might be taxed on income that could’ve been donated because the ability to make a donation triggers “constructive receipt.”
Like similar recent guidance, such as IRS Notice 2021-42 issued last June, this latest notice addresses both tax issues. First, cash payments that employers make to qualified tax-exempt organizations in exchange for vacation, sick or personal leave that their employees elect to forgo won’t constitute income to the employees if the payments are made before January 1, 2023, for the relief of victims of the further Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such payments need not be included in Box 1, 3 or 5 of the employee’s Form W-2.
Second, the mere opportunity to make a leave donation won’t result in constructive receipt of income for employees. Electing employees may not deduct the value of the donated leave on their income tax returns. Such deductions would be “double-dipping” because the donated leave will have already been excluded from their income.
Employers will be permitted to deduct the contributions as either charitable contributions or as trade or business expenses so long as the applicable requirements are met.
Easy and efficient
A leave-sharing program can allow employees to make charitable donations in a relatively easy, efficient manner. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about this recent guidance, as well as provide assistance in setting up a program at your organization.
Some people who begin claiming Social Security benefits are surprised to find out they’re taxed by the federal government on the amounts they receive. If you’re wondering whether you’ll be taxed on your Social Security benefits, the answer is: It depends.
The taxation of Social Security benefits depends on your other income. If your income is high enough, between 50% and 85% of your benefits could be taxed. (This doesn’t mean you pay 85% of your benefits back to the federal government in taxes. It merely means that you’d include 85% of them in your income subject to your regular tax rates.)
Figuring your income
To determine how much of your benefits are taxed, first determine your other income, including certain items otherwise excluded for tax purposes (for example, tax-exempt interest). Add to that the income of your spouse if you file a joint tax return. To this, add half of the Social Security benefits you and your spouse received during the year. The figure you come up with is your total income plus half of your benefits. Now apply the following rules:
An example to illustrate
Let’s say you and your spouse have $20,000 in taxable dividends, $2,400 of tax-exempt interest and combined Social Security benefits of $21,000. So, your income plus half your benefits is $32,900 ($20,000 + $2,400 +½ of $21,000). You must include $450 of the benefits in gross income (½ ($32,900 − $32,000)). (If your combined Social Security benefits were $5,000, and your income plus half your benefits were $40,000, you would include $2,500 of the benefits in income: ½ ($40,000 − $32,000) equals $4,000, but half the $5,000 of benefits ($2,500) is lower, and the lower figure is used.)
Note: If you aren’t paying tax on your Social Security benefits now because your income is below the floor, or you’re paying tax on only 50% of those benefits, an unplanned increase in your income can have a triple tax cost. You’ll have to pay tax on the additional income, you’ll have to pay tax on (or on more of) your Social Security benefits (since the higher your income the more of your Social Security benefits are taxed), and you may get pushed into a higher marginal tax bracket.
For example, this situation might arise if you receive a large distribution from an IRA during the year or you have large capital gains. Careful planning might avoid this negative tax result. You might be able to spread the additional income over more than one year, or liquidate assets other than an IRA account, such as stock showing only a small gain or stock with gain that can be offset by a capital loss on other shares.
If you know your Social Security benefits will be taxed, you can voluntarily arrange to have the tax withheld from the payments by filing a Form W-4V. Otherwise, you may have to make quarterly estimated tax payments. Keep in mind that most states do not tax Social Security benefits, but 12 states do tax them. Contact us for assistance or more information.
Under some circumstances, an employer that sponsors a 401(k) might wish to amend its plan to exclude part-time employees and offer the benefit only to full-time staff members. Is such an approach allowed under the rules for qualified plans?
Coverage and service rules
Employers have considerable freedom to decide which categories of employees can participate in their 401(k) plans. However, this freedom isn’t unlimited.
For example, eligibility restrictions must avoid violating the minimum coverage rules. And service-based exclusions cannot violate the minimum service rules.
Under those rules, employees generally can’t be required to have more than 1,000 hours of service in a designated 12-month period before being eligible to participate in a 401(k) plan. In addition, long-term part-time employees can’t be required to have more than three consecutive 12-month periods of at least 500 hours of service before they can make elective deferrals.
Note: Deferrals aren’t required under the three-year rule before 2024, however, because only 12-month periods after 2020 must be counted.
So, let’s say you’d like to exclude all part-time employees regardless of their actual service. This sort of categorical exclusion might seem different from an hours-of-service requirement, but part-time status is typically based on anticipated or scheduled service. And, in the IRS’s view, a service-based eligibility threshold that doesn’t count actual hours of service will fail the hour-counting rules if, in operation, it excludes employees whose actual service satisfies an applicable hour-counting threshold.
For instance, if your plan were to define part-timers as employees who are “regularly scheduled” to work 20 or fewer hours a week, the plan might end up excluding employees who work 20 hours a week for 52 weeks and, therefore, have 1,040 hours of service for the year.
In that event, your plan would be using a service-based threshold to exclude employees who, in fact, have satisfied the 1,000-hour minimum service rule. Beginning in 2024, employees with even fewer hours won’t be excludable from elective deferrals on account of their service if they work at least 500 hours in three consecutive 12-month periods.
A potential solution
One potential approach to excluding employees who aren’t full-timers is to look for a common, non–service-based denominator among them that you wish to exclude, such as job function or job location.
For example, let’s say most of your part-time employees are performing the same job function or work at the same location, and you’re willing to exclude all other employees who perform the same job function or work at the same location. In this case, you might be able to craft a plan eligibility rule that excludes those part-timers without violating the minimum service rules.
Be careful, though, because at least one IRS representative has indicated that even criteria that aren’t service-based could violate the rules if they merely disguise an improper plan eligibility rule.
Finally, bear in mind that errors in applying the 401(k) plan eligibility rules to part-time employees frequently turn up in voluntary compliance and IRS audits. It’s critical that your plan’s terms clearly state your design choices — especially when excluding certain classes of employees. Moreover, you should routinely review plan language to ensure it reflects changing employment practices. Contact us for more information.
Are you a partner in a business? You may have come across a situation that’s puzzling. In a given year, you may be taxed on more partnership income than was distributed to you from the partnership in which you’re a partner.
Why does this happen? It’s due to the way partnerships and partners are taxed. Unlike C corporations, partnerships aren’t subject to income tax. Instead, each partner is taxed on the partnership’s earnings — whether or not they’re distributed. Similarly, if a partnership has a loss, the loss is passed through to the partners. (However, various rules may prevent a partner from currently using his or her share of a partnership’s loss to offset other income.)
Pass through your share
While a partnership isn’t subject to income tax, it’s treated as a separate entity for purposes of determining its income, gains, losses, deductions and credits. This makes it possible to pass through to partners their share of these items.
An information return must be filed by a partnership. On Schedule K of Form 1065, the partnership separately identifies income, deductions, credits and other items. This is so that each partner can properly treat items that are subject to limits or other rules that could affect their correct treatment at the partner’s level. Examples of such items include capital gains and losses, interest expense on investment debts and charitable contributions. Each partner gets a Schedule K-1 showing his or her share of partnership items.
Basis and distribution rules ensure that partners aren’t taxed twice. A partner’s initial basis in his or her partnership interest (the determination of which varies depending on how the interest was acquired) is increased by his or her share of partnership taxable income. When that income is paid out to partners in cash, they aren’t taxed on the cash if they have sufficient basis. Instead, partners just reduce their basis by the amount of the distribution. If a cash distribution exceeds a partner’s basis, then the excess is taxed to the partner as a gain, which often is a capital gain.
Two people each contribute $10,000 to form a partnership. The partnership has $80,000 of taxable income in the first year, during which it makes no cash distributions to the two partners. Each of them reports $40,000 of taxable income from the partnership as shown on their K-1s. Each has a starting basis of $10,000, which is increased by $40,000 to $50,000. In the second year, the partnership breaks even (has zero taxable income) and distributes $40,000 to each of the two partners. The cash distributed to them is received tax-free. Each of them, however, must reduce the basis in his or her partnership interest from $50,000 to $10,000.
More rules and limits
The example and details above are an overview and, therefore, don’t cover all the rules. For example, many other events require basis adjustments and there are a host of special rules covering noncash distributions, distributions of securities, liquidating distributions and other matters. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how a partner is taxed.
Taking care of an elderly parent or grandparent may provide more than just personal satisfaction. You could also be eligible for tax breaks. Here’s a rundown of some of them.
1. Medical expenses. If the individual qualifies as your “medical dependent,” and you itemize deductions on your tax return, you can include any medical expenses you incur for the individual along with your own when determining your medical deduction. The test for determining whether an individual qualifies as your “medical dependent” is less stringent than that used to determine whether an individual is your “dependent,” which is discussed below. In general, an individual qualifies as a medical dependent if you provide over 50% of his or her support, including medical costs.
However, bear in mind that medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
The costs of qualified long-term care services required by a chronically ill individual and eligible long-term care insurance premiums are included in the definition of deductible medical expenses. There’s an annual cap on the amount of premiums that can be deducted. The cap is based on age, going as high as $5,640 for 2022 for an individual over 70.
2. Filing status. If you aren’t married, you may qualify for “head of household” status by virtue of the individual you’re caring for. You can claim this status if:
If the person you’re caring for is your parent, the person doesn’t need to live with you, so long as you provide more than half of the person’s household costs and the person qualifies as your dependent. A head of household has a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates than a single filer.
3. Tests for determining whether your loved one is a “dependent.” Dependency exemptions are suspended (or disallowed) for 2018–2025. Even though the dependency exemption is currently suspended, the dependency tests still apply when it comes to determining whether a taxpayer is entitled to various other tax benefits, such as head-of-household filing status.
For an individual to qualify as your “dependent,” the following must be true for the tax year at issue:
4. Dependent care credit. If the cared-for individual qualifies as your dependent, lives with you, and physically or mentally can’t take care of him- or herself, you may qualify for the dependent care credit for costs you incur for the individual’s care to enable you and your spouse to go to work.
Contact us if you’d like to further discuss the tax aspects of financially supporting and caring for an elderly relative.
Like many people, you may have dreamed of turning a hobby into a regular business. You won’t have any tax headaches if your new business is profitable. But what if the new enterprise consistently generates losses (your deductions exceed income) and you claim them on your tax return? You can generally deduct losses for expenses incurred in a bona fide business. However, the IRS may step in and say the venture is a hobby — an activity not engaged in for profit — rather than a business. Then you’ll be unable to deduct losses.
By contrast, if the new enterprise isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules because it’s profitable, all otherwise allowable expenses are deductible on Schedule C, even if they exceed income from the enterprise.
Note: Before 2018, deductible hobby expenses had to be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” However, because miscellaneous deductions aren’t allowed from 2018 through 2025, deductible hobby expenses are effectively wiped out from 2018 through 2025.
Avoiding a hobby designation
There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules:
How can you prove you have a profit-making objective? You should run the venture in a businesslike manner. The IRS and the courts will look at the following factors:
Recent court case
In one U.S. Tax Court case, a married couple’s miniature donkey breeding activity was found to be conducted with a profit motive. The IRS had earlier determined it was a hobby and the couple was liable for taxes and penalties for the two tax years in which they claimed losses of more than $130,000. However, the court found the couple had a business plan, kept separate records and conducted the activity in a businesslike manner. The court stated they were “engaged in the breeding activity with an actual and honest objective of making a profit.” (TC Memo 2021-140)
Contact us for more details on whether a venture of yours may be affected by the hobby loss rules, and what you should do to avoid a tax challenge.
The downturn in the stock market may have caused the value of your retirement account to decrease. But if you have a traditional IRA, this decline may provide a valuable opportunity: It may allow you to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at a lower tax cost.
Traditional vs. Roth
Here’s what makes a traditional IRA different from a Roth IRA:
Traditional IRA. Contributions to a traditional IRA may be deductible, depending on your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and whether you (or your spouse) participate in a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k). Funds in the account can grow tax deferred.
On the downside, you generally must pay income tax on withdrawals. In addition, you’ll face a penalty if you withdraw funds before age 59½ — unless you qualify for a handful of exceptions — and you’ll face an even larger penalty if you don’t take your required minimum distributions (RMDs) after age 72.
Roth IRA. Roth IRA contributions are never deductible. But withdrawals — including earnings — are tax free as long as you’re age 59½ or older and the account has been open at least five years. In addition, you’re allowed to withdraw contributions at any time tax- and penalty-free. You also don’t have to begin taking RMDs after you reach age 72.
However, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA is subject to limits based on your MAGI. Fortunately, no matter how high your income, you’re eligible to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. The catch? You’ll have to pay income tax on the amount converted.
Your tax hit may be reduced
This is where the “benefit” of a stock market downturn comes in. If your traditional IRA has lost value, converting to a Roth now rather than later will minimize your tax hit. Plus, you’ll avoid tax on future appreciation when the market goes back up.
It’s important to think through the details before you convert. Here are some of the issues to consider when deciding whether to make a conversion:
Having enough money to pay the tax bill. If you don’t have the cash on hand to cover the taxes owed on the conversion, you may have to dip into your retirement funds. This will erode your nest egg. The more money you convert and the higher your tax bracket, the bigger the tax hit.
Your retirement plans. Your stage of life may also affect your decision. Typically, you wouldn’t convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA if you expect to retire soon and start drawing down on the account right away. Usually, the goal is to allow the funds to grow and compound over time without any tax erosion.
Keep in mind that converting a traditional IRA to a Roth isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. You can convert as much or as little of the money from your traditional IRA account as you like. So, you might decide to gradually convert your account to spread out the tax hit over several years.
There are also other issues that need to be considered before executing a Roth IRA conversion. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, contact us to discuss whether a conversion is right for you.
Adding a new partner in a partnership has several financial and legal implications. Let’s say you and your partners are planning to admit a new partner. The new partner will acquire a one-third interest in the partnership by making a cash contribution to it. Let’s further assume that your bases in your partnership interests are sufficient so that the decrease in your portions of the partnership’s liabilities because of the new partner’s entry won’t reduce your bases to zero.
Not as simple as it seems
Although the entry of a new partner appears to be a simple matter, it’s necessary to plan the new person’s entry properly in order to avoid various tax problems. Here are two issues to consider:
First, if there’s a change in the partners’ interests in unrealized receivables and substantially appreciated inventory items, the change is treated as a sale of those items, with the result that the current partners will recognize gain. For this purpose, unrealized receivables include not only accounts receivable, but also depreciation recapture and certain other ordinary income items. In order to avoid gain recognition on those items, it’s necessary that they be allocated to the current partners even after the entry of the new partner.
Second, the tax code requires that the “built-in gain or loss” on assets that were held by the partnership before the new partner was admitted be allocated to the current partners and not to the entering partner. Generally speaking, “built-in gain or loss” is the difference between the fair market value and basis of the partnership property at the time the new partner is admitted.
The most important effect of these rules is that the new partner must be allocated a portion of the depreciation equal to his share of the depreciable property based on current fair market value. This will reduce the amount of depreciation that can be taken by the current partners. The other effect is that the built-in gain or loss on the partnership assets must be allocated to the current partners when partnership assets are sold. The rules that apply here are complex and the partnership may have to adopt special accounting procedures to cope with the relevant requirements.
Keep track of your basis
When adding a partner or making other changes, a partner’s basis in his or her interest can undergo frequent adjustment. It’s imperative to keep proper track of your basis because it can have an impact in several areas: gain or loss on the sale of your interest, how partnership distributions to you are taxed and the maximum amount of partnership loss you can deduct.
Contact us if you’d like help in dealing with these issues or any other issues that may arise in connection with your partnership.
Are you a charitably minded individual who is also taking distributions from a traditional IRA? You may want to consider the tax advantages of making a cash donation to an IRS-approved charity out of your IRA.
When distributions are taken directly out of traditional IRAs, federal income tax of up to 37% in 2022 will have to be paid. State income taxes may also be owed.
Qualified charitable distributions
One popular way to transfer IRA assets to charity is via a tax provision that allows IRA owners who are age 70½ or older to direct up to $100,000 per year of their IRA distributions to charity. These distributions are known as qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). The money given to charity counts toward your required minimum distributions (RMDs) but doesn’t increase your adjusted gross income (AGI) or generate a tax bill.
Keeping the donation out of your AGI may be important for several reasons. Here are some of them:
Important points: You can’t claim a charitable contribution deduction for a QCD not included in your income. Also keep in mind that the age after which you must begin taking RMDs is 72, but the age you can begin making QCDs is 70½.
To benefit from a QCD for 2022, you must arrange for a distribution to be paid directly from the IRA to a qualified charity by December 31, 2022. You can use QCDs to satisfy all or part of the amount of your RMDs from your IRA. For example, if your 2022 RMDs are $10,000, and you make a $5,000 QCD for 2022, you have to withdraw another $5,000 to satisfy your 2022 RMDs.
Other rules and limits may apply. Want more information? Contact us to see whether this strategy would be beneficial in your situation.
The IRS has begun mailing notices to businesses, financial institutions and other payers that filed certain returns with information that doesn’t match the agency’s records.
These CP2100 and CP2100A notices are sent by the IRS twice a year to payers who filed information returns that are missing a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), have an incorrect name or have a combination of both.
Each notice has a list of persons who received payments from the business with identified TIN issues.
If you receive one of these notices, you need to compare the accounts listed on the notice with your records and correct or update your records, if necessary. This can also include correcting backup withholding on payments made to payees.
Which returns are involved?
Businesses, financial institutions and other payers are required to file with the IRS various information returns reporting certain payments they make to independent contractors, customers and others. These information returns include:
Do you have backup withholding responsibilities?
The CP2100 and CP2100A notices also inform recipients that they’re responsible for backup withholding. Payments reported on the information returns listed above are subject to backup withholding if:
Do you have to report payments to independent contractors?
By January first of the following year, payers must complete Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation,” to report certain payments made to recipients. If the following four conditions are met, you must generally report payments as nonemployee compensation:
Contact us if you receive a CP2100 or CP2100A notice from the IRS or if you have questions about filing Form 1099-NEC. We can help you stay in compliance with all rules.
In some cases, homeowners decide to move to new residences, but keep their present homes and rent them out. If you’re thinking of doing this, you’re probably aware of the financial risks and rewards. However, you also should know that renting out your home carries potential tax benefits and pitfalls.
You’re generally treated as a regular real estate landlord once you begin renting your home. That means you must report rental income on your tax return, but also are entitled to offsetting landlord deductions for the money you spend on utilities, operating expenses, incidental repairs and maintenance (for example, fixing a leak in the roof). Additionally, you can claim depreciation deductions for the home. You can fully offset rental income with otherwise allowable landlord deductions.
Passive activity rules
However, under the passive activity loss (PAL) rules, you may not be able to currently claim the rent-related deductions that exceed your rental income unless an exception applies. Under the most widely applicable exception, the PAL rules won’t affect your converted property for a tax year in which your adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed $100,000, you actively participate in running the home-rental business, and your losses from all rental real estate activities in which you actively participate don’t exceed $25,000.
You should also be aware that potential tax pitfalls may arise from renting your residence. Unless your rentals are strictly temporary and are made necessary by adverse market conditions, you could forfeit an important tax break for home sellers if you finally sell the home at a profit. In general, you can escape tax on up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of gain on the sale of your principal home. However, this tax-free treatment is conditioned on your having used the residence as your principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. So renting your home out for an extended time could jeopardize a big tax break.
Even if you don’t rent out your home so long as to jeopardize your principal residence exclusion, the tax break you would have gotten on the sale (the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion) won’t apply to the extent of any depreciation allowable with respect to the rental or business use of the home for periods after May 6, 1997, or to any gain allocable to a period of nonqualified use (any period during which the property isn’t used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or former spouse) after December 31, 2008. A maximum tax rate of 25% will apply to this gain (attributable to depreciation deductions).
Selling at a loss
Some homeowners who bought at the height of a market may ultimately sell at a loss someday. In such situations, the loss is available for tax purposes only if the owner can establish that the home was in fact converted permanently into income-producing property. Here, a longer lease period helps an owner. However, if you’re in this situation, be aware that you may not wind up with much of a loss for tax purposes. That’s because basis (the cost for tax purposes) is equal to the lesser of actual cost or the property’s fair market value when it’s converted to rental property. So if a home was bought for $300,000, converted to a rental when it’s worth $250,000, and ultimately sold for $225,000, the loss would be only $25,000.
The question of whether to turn a principal residence into rental property isn’t easy. Contact us to review your situation and help you make a decision.
Operating as an S corporation may help reduce federal employment taxes for small businesses in the right circumstances. Although S corporations may provide tax advantages over C corporations, there are some potentially costly tax issues that you should assess before making a decision to switch.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most important issues to consider when converting from a C corporation to an S corporation:
Built-in gains tax
Although S corporations generally aren’t subject to tax, those that were formerly C corporations are taxed on built-in gains (such as appreciated property) that the C corporation has when the S election becomes effective, if those gains are recognized within 5 years after the corporation becomes an S corporation. This is generally unfavorable, although there are situations where the S election still can produce a better tax result despite the built-in gains tax.
S corporations that were formerly C corporations are subject to a special tax if their passive investment income (such as dividends, interest, rents, royalties and stock sale gains) exceeds 25% of their gross receipts, and the S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits carried over from its C corporation years. If that tax is owed for three consecutive years, the corporation’s election to be an S corporation terminates. You can avoid the tax by distributing the accumulated earnings and profits, which would be taxable to shareholders. Or you might want to avoid the tax by limiting the amount of passive income.
C corporations that use LIFO inventories have to pay tax on the benefits they derived by using LIFO if they convert to S corporations. The tax can be spread over four years. This cost must be weighed against the potential tax gains from converting to S status.
If your C corporation has unused net operating losses, the losses can't be used to offset its income as an S corporation and can’t be passed through to shareholders. If the losses can’t be carried back to an earlier C corporation year, it will be necessary to weigh the cost of giving up the losses against the tax savings expected to be generated by the switch to S status.
There are other factors to consider in switching from C to S status. Shareholder-employees of S corporations can’t get the full range of tax-free fringe benefits that are available with a C corporation. And there may be complications for shareholders who have outstanding loans from their qualified plans. All of these factors have to be considered to understand the full effect of converting from C to S status.
There are strategies for eliminating or minimizing some of these tax problems and for avoiding unnecessary pitfalls related to them. But a lot depends upon your company’s particular circumstances. Contact us to discuss the effect of these and other potential problems, along with possible strategies for dealing with them.
Spring has sprung — and summer isn’t far off. If your business typically hires minors for summer jobs, now’s a good time to brush up on child labor laws.
In News Release No. 22-546-DEN, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently announced that it’s stepping up efforts to identify child labor violations in the Salt Lake City area. However, the news serves as a good reminder to companies nationwide about the many details of employing children.
Finer points of the FLSA
The Department of Labor is the sole federal agency that monitors child labor and enforces child labor laws. The most sweeping federal law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The WHD handles enforcement of the FLSA’s child labor provisions.
The FLSA restricts the hours that children under 16 years of age can work and lists hazardous occupations too dangerous for young workers to perform. Examples include jobs involving the operation of power-driven woodworking machines, and work that involves exposure to radioactive substances and ionizing radiators.
The FLSA allows children 14 to 15 years old to work outside of school hours in various manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs under certain conditions. Permissible work hours for 14- and 15-year-olds are:
*From June 1 through Labor Day, nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.
Just one example
News Release No. 22-546-DEN reveals the results of three specific investigations. In them, the WHD found that employers had allowed minors to operate dangerous machinery. Also, minors were allowed to work beyond the time permitted, during school hours, more than three hours on a school night and more than 18 hours a workweek.
In one case, a restaurant allowed minors to operate or assist in operating a trash compactor and a manual fryer, which are prohibited tasks for 14- and 15-year-old workers. The employer also allowed minors to work:
The WHD assessed the business $17,159 in civil money penalties.
Letter of the law
In the news release, WHD Director Kevin Hunt states, “Early employment opportunities are meant to be valuable and safe learning experiences for young people and should never put them at risk of harm. Employers who fail to keep minor-aged workers safe and follow child labor regulations may struggle to find the young people they need to operate their businesses.”
What’s more, as the case above demonstrates, companies can incur substantial financial penalties for failing to follow the letter of the law. Consult an employment attorney for further details on the FLSA. We can help you measure and manage your hiring and payroll costs.
Employee performance reviews don’t always get the respect they deserve. Although many employers carry out a thorough and diligent annual or semiannual process, others let performance reviews slip into a brief formality or even neglect to do them altogether.
If your organization’s commitment to this often-stressful ritual ever starts to falter, remind yourself and your supervisors of its importance.
Why they’re critical
There’s no doubt that performance reviews consume a substantial amount of time and resources. However, they’re mission critical for virtually every kind of employer for several reasons.
First, reviews are designed to provide feedback and counseling to employees about how the organization perceives their respective job performances. When staff members feel undervalued or ignored, they’re much more likely to leave.
Second, reviews enable supervisors and employees to set objectives for the upcoming year (or other performance period) and assist in determining any developmental needs. And third, reviews create a written record of performance and assist in allocating rewards and opportunities, as well as justify disciplinary actions or termination.
Conversely, giving annual reviews short shrift by only orally praising or reprimanding an employee leaves a big gap in that worker’s written history. The most secure companies, legally speaking, document employees’ shortcomings — and achievements — as they occur. They fully discuss performance at least once annually.
What not to do
To ensure your annual reviews are as productive as possible, make sure your supervisors are well-trained and aren’t committing any of the most common worst practices.
To begin with, they shouldn’t wing it. Establish clear standards and procedures for annual reviews. For example, supervisors should prepare for the meetings by filling out the same documentation for every employee.
Also, supervisors shouldn’t perform reviews in a vacuum. If a team member works regularly with other departments or outside vendors, the supervisor should contact individuals in those other areas for feedback before the review. You can learn some surprising things this way, both good and bad.
In addition, nothing in a performance review should come as a major surprise to an employee. Be sure supervisors are communicating with workers about their performance throughout the year. An employee should know in advance what will be discussed, how much time to set aside for the meeting and how to prepare for it.
Last, supervisors need to follow through and follow up on performance review discussions. Ensure they’re identifying and elucidating key objectives for each employee for the coming year (or period). It’s also a good idea to establish checkpoints in the months ahead to assess the employee’s progress toward the goals in question.
Refine your process
Employee performance reviews are easy to take for granted — particularly if your organization has been following the same process for years. Confirm that your leadership team holds them in high esteem. Beyond that, regularly review and refine the way you conduct reviews to improve the experience for everyone involved.
The federal government is helping to pick up the tab for certain business meals. Under a provision that’s part of one of the COVID-19 relief laws, the usual deduction for 50% of the cost of business meals is doubled to 100% for food and beverages provided by restaurants in 2022 (and 2021).
So, you can take a customer out for a business meal or order take-out for your team and temporarily write off the entire cost — including the tip, sales tax and any delivery charges.
Despite eliminating deductions for business entertainment expenses in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a business taxpayer could still deduct 50% of the cost of qualified business meals, including meals incurred while traveling away from home on business. (The TCJA generally eliminated the 50% deduction for business entertainment expenses incurred after 2017 on a permanent basis.)
To help struggling restaurants during the pandemic, the Consolidated Appropriations Act doubled the business meal deduction temporarily for 2021 and 2022. Unless Congress acts to extend this tax break, it will expire on December 31, 2022.
Currently, the deduction for business meals is allowed if the following requirements are met:
In the event that food and beverages are provided during an entertainment activity, the food and beverages must be purchased separately from the entertainment. Alternatively, the cost can be stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills.
So, if you treat a client to a meal and the expense is properly substantiated, you may qualify for a business meal deduction as long as there’s a business purpose to the meal or a reasonable expectation that a benefit to the business will result.
Provided by a restaurant
IRS Notice 2021-25 explains the main rules for qualifying for the 100% deduction for food and beverages provided by a restaurant. Under this guidance, the deduction is available if the restaurant prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption on or off the premises. As a result, it applies to both on-site dining and take-out and delivery meals.
However, a “restaurant” doesn’t include a business that mainly sells pre-packaged goods not intended for immediate consumption. So, food and beverage sales are excluded from businesses including:
The restriction also applies to an eating facility located on the employer’s business premises that provides meals excluded from an employee’s taxable income. Business meals purchased from such facilities are limited to a 50% deduction. It doesn’t matter if a third party is operating the facility under a contract with the business.
Keep good records
It’s important to keep track of expenses to maximize tax benefits for business meal expenses.
You should record the:
In addition, ask establishments to divvy up the tab between any entertainment costs and food/ beverages. For additional information, contact your tax advisor.
If you’re an investor in mutual funds or you’re interested in putting some money into them, you’re not alone. According to the Investment Company Institute, a survey found 58.7 million households owned mutual funds in mid-2020. But despite their popularity, the tax rules involved in selling mutual fund shares can be complex.
What are the basic tax rules?
Let’s say you sell appreciated mutual fund shares that you’ve owned for more than one year, the resulting profit will be a long-term capital gain. As such, the maximum federal income tax rate will be 20%, and you may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax. However, most taxpayers will pay a tax rate of only 15%.
When a mutual fund investor sells shares, gain or loss is measured by the difference between the amount realized from the sale and the investor’s basis in the shares. One challenge is that certain mutual fund transactions are treated as sales even though they might not be thought of as such. Another problem may arise in determining your basis for shares sold.
When does a sale occur?
It’s obvious that a sale occurs when an investor redeems all shares in a mutual fund and receives the proceeds. Similarly, a sale occurs if an investor directs the fund to redeem the number of shares necessary for a specific dollar payout.
It’s less obvious that a sale occurs if you’re swapping funds within a fund family. For example, you surrender shares of an Income Fund for an equal value of shares of the same company’s Growth Fund. No money changes hands but this is considered a sale of the Income Fund shares.
Another example: Many mutual funds provide check-writing privileges to their investors. Although it may not seem like it, each time you write a check on your fund account, you’re making a sale of shares.
How do you determine the basis of shares?
If an investor sells all shares in a mutual fund in a single transaction, determining basis is relatively easy. Simply add the basis of all the shares (the amount of actual cash investments) including commissions or sales charges. Then, add distributions by the fund that were reinvested to acquire additional shares and subtract any distributions that represent a return of capital.
The calculation is more complex if you dispose of only part of your interest in the fund and the shares were acquired at different times for different prices. You can use one of several methods to identify the shares sold and determine your basis:
As you can see, mutual fund investing can result in complex tax situations. Contact us if you have questions. We can explain in greater detail how the rules apply to you.
In Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently expressed “serious concerns” about the prudence of offering cryptocurrency investments to 401(k) plan participants. The agency advised fiduciaries to use “extreme care” before they consider adding such an option.
The release explains that fiduciaries can be held personally liable for breaching their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which includes selecting and retaining only prudent investments. It also points out that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University has indicated that just because participants may choose other investments from a plan’s menu doesn’t mean fiduciaries are safe from liability for including imprudent options.
5 risk factors
In the release, the DOL identifies five factors that contribute to the challenge and risk of offering “crypto,” as it’s commonly called, at this early stage in its development:
Based on these and other concerns, the DOL intends to investigate plans that offer crypto and take enforcement action to protect participants. The release warns fiduciaries who are responsible for cryptocurrency investments — whether as part of the plan’s menu or through brokerage windows — that they “should expect to be questioned about how they can square their actions with” their fiduciary duties in light of the distinctive risks.
The lure of substantial profits has generated considerable interest in crypto. However, the DOL clearly thinks that it’s not quite ready for prime time. The overall message of Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01 is one of strong skepticism regarding the prudence of offering cryptocurrency investments in a 401(k) plan.
And contrary to the assumptions of some fiduciaries, the DOL’s position seems to be that fiduciary liability risk cannot be avoided by allowing such investments through brokerage windows. Even these arrangements will be questioned under the agency’s anticipated investigative program. Our firm can help your organization assess the costs and risks of a 401(k) or any other type of employer-sponsored retirement plan.
The clock is ticking down to the April 18 tax filing deadline. Sometimes, it’s not possible to gather your tax information and file by the due date. If you need more time, you should file for an extension on Form 4868.
An extension will give you until October 17 to file and allows you to avoid incurring “failure-to-file” penalties. However, it only provides extra time to file, not to pay. Whatever tax you estimate is owed must still be sent by April 18, or you’ll incur penalties — and as you’ll see below, they can be steep.
Failure to file vs. failure to pay
Separate penalties apply for failing to pay and failing to file. The failure-to-pay penalty runs at 0.5% for each month (or part of a month) the payment is late. For example, if payment is due April 18 and is made May 25, the penalty is 1% (0.5% times 2 months or partial months). The maximum penalty is 25%.
The failure-to-pay penalty is based on the amount shown as due on the return (less credits for amounts paid via withholding or estimated payments), even if the actual tax bill turns out to be higher. On the other hand, if the actual tax bill turns out to be lower, the penalty is based on the lower amount.
The failure-to-file penalty runs at the more severe rate of 5% per month (or partial month) of lateness to a maximum 25%. If you file for an extension on Form 4868, you’re not filing late unless you miss the extended due date. However, as mentioned earlier, a filing extension doesn’t apply to your responsibility for payment.
If the 0.5% failure-to-pay penalty and the failure-to-file penalty both apply, the failure-to-file penalty drops to 4.5% per month (or part) so the combined penalty is 5%. The maximum combined penalty for the first five months is 25%. Thereafter, the failure-to-pay penalty can continue at 0.5% per month for 45 more months (an additional 22.5%). Thus, the combined penalties can reach a total of 47.5% over time.
The failure-to-file penalty is also more severe because it’s based on the amount required to be shown on the return, and not just the amount shown as due. (Credit is given for amounts paid via withholding or estimated payments. If no amount is owed, there’s no penalty for late filing.) For example, if a return is filed three months late showing $5,000 owed (after payment credits), the combined penalties would be 15%, which equals $750. If the actual liability is later determined to be an additional $1,000, the failure-to-file penalty (4.5% × 3 = 13.5%) would also apply to this amount for an additional $135 in penalties.
A minimum failure-to-file penalty also applies if a return is filed more than 60 days late. This minimum penalty is the lesser of $435 (for returns due through 2022) or the amount of tax required to be shown on the return.
Both penalties may be excused by the IRS if lateness is due to “reasonable cause” such as death or serious illness in the immediate family.
Interest is assessed at a fluctuating rate announced by the government apart from and in addition to the above penalties. Furthermore, in particularly abusive situations involving a fraudulent failure to file, the late filing penalty can jump to 15% per month, with a 75% maximum.
Contact us if you have questions about IRS penalties or about filing Form 4868.
Summer is just around the corner. If you’re fortunate enough to own a vacation home, you may wonder about the tax consequences of renting it out for part of the year.
The tax treatment depends on how many days it’s rented and your level of personal use. Personal use includes vacation use by your relatives (even if you charge them market rate rent) and use by nonrelatives if a market rate rent isn’t charged.
If you rent the property out for less than 15 days during the year, it’s not treated as “rental property” at all. In the right circumstances, this can produce significant tax benefits. Any rent you receive isn’t included in your income for tax purposes (no matter how substantial). On the other hand, you can only deduct property taxes and mortgage interest — no other operating costs and no depreciation. (Mortgage interest is deductible on your principal residence and one other home, subject to certain limits.)
If you rent the property out for more than 14 days, you must include the rent you receive in income. However, you can deduct part of your operating expenses and depreciation, subject to several rules. First, you must allocate your expenses between the personal use days and the rental days. For example, if the house is rented for 90 days and used personally for 30 days, then 75% of the use is rental (90 days out of 120 total days). You would allocate 75% of your maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc., costs to rental. You would allocate 75% of your depreciation allowance, interest, and taxes for the property to rental as well. The personal use portion of taxes is separately deductible. The personal use portion of interest on a second home is also deductible if the personal use exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days. However, depreciation on the personal use portion isn’t allowed.
If the rental income exceeds these allocable deductions, you report the rent and deductions to determine the amount of rental income to add to your other income. If the expenses exceed the income, you may be able to claim a rental loss. This depends on how many days you use the house personally.
Here’s the test: if you use it personally for more than the greater of 1) 14 days, or 2) 10% of the rental days, you’re using it “too much,” and you can’t claim your loss. In this case, you can still use your deductions to wipe out rental income, but you can’t go beyond that to create a loss. Any unused deductions are carried forward and may be usable in future years. If you’re limited to using deductions only up to the amount of rental income, you must use the deductions allocated to the rental portion in the following order: 1) interest and taxes, 2) operating costs, 3) depreciation.
If you “pass” the personal use test (i.e., you don’t use the property personally more than the greater of the figures listed above), you must still allocate your expenses between the personal and rental portions. In this case, however, if your rental deductions exceed rental income, you can claim the loss. (The loss is “passive,” however, and may be limited under the passive loss rules.)
As you can see, the rules are complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to plan ahead to maximize deductions in your situation.
Once a relatively obscure concept, “income in respect of a decedent” (IRD) may create a surprising tax bill for those who inherit certain types of property, such as IRAs or other retirement plans. Fortunately, there may be ways to minimize or even eliminate the IRD tax bite.
For the most part, property you inherit isn’t included in your income for tax purposes. Items that are IRD, however, do have to be included in your income, although you may also be entitled to an IRD deduction on account of them.
What’s IRD? It is income that the decedent (the person from whom you inherit the property) would have taken into income on his or her final income tax return except that death interceded. One common IRD item is the decedent’s last paycheck, received after death. It would have normally been included in the decedent’s income on the final income tax return. However, since the decedent’s tax year closed as of the date of death, it wasn’t included. As an item of IRD, it’s taxed as income to whomever does receive it (the estate or another individual). Not just the final paycheck, but any compensation-related benefits paid after death, such as accrued vacation pay or voluntary employer benefit payments, will be IRD to the recipient.
Other common IRD items include pension benefits and amounts in a decedent’s individual retirement accounts (IRAs) at death as well as a decedent’s share of partnership income up to the date of death. If you receive these IRD items, they’re included in your income.
The IRD deduction
Although IRD must be included in the income of the recipient, a deduction may come along with it. The deduction is allowed (as an itemized deduction) to lessen the “double tax” impact that’s caused by having the IRD items subject to the decedent’s estate tax as well as the recipient’s income tax.
To calculate the IRD deduction, the decedent’s executor may have to be contacted for information. The deduction is determined as follows:
In the following example, the top estate tax rate of 40% is used. Example: At Tom’s death, $50,000 of IRD items were included in his gross estate, $10,000 of which were paid to Alex. There were also $3,000 of deductions in respect of a decedent, for a net value of $47,000. Had the estate been $47,000 less, the estate tax bill would have been $18,800 less. Alex will include in income the $10,000 of IRD received. If Alex itemizes deductions, Alex may also deduct $3,760, which is 20% (10,000/50,000) of $18,800.
We can help
If you inherit property that could be considered IRD, consult with us for assistance in managing the tax consequences.
If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, now might be a good time to take the plunge. Current retirement plan rules allow for significant tax-deductible contributions.
For example, if you’re self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $61,000 for 2022. If you’re employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed to your account, with a maximum contribution of $61,000. If you’re in the 32% federal income tax bracket, making a maximum contribution could cut what you owe Uncle Sam for 2022 by a whopping $19,520 (32% times $61,000).
Other small business retirement plan options include:
Depending on your circumstances, these other types of plans may allow bigger deductible contributions.
Deadlines to establish and contribute
Thanks to a change made by the 2019 SECURE Act, tax-favored qualified employee retirement plans, except for SIMPLE-IRA plans, can now be adopted by the due date (including any extension) of the employer’s federal income tax return for the adoption year. The plan can then receive deductible employer contributions that are made by the due date (including any extension), and the employer can deduct those contributions on the return for the adoption year.
Important: The SECURE Act provision didn’t change the deadline to establish a SIMPLE-IRA plan. It remains October 1 of the year for which the plan is to take effect. Also, the SECURE Act change doesn’t override rules that require certain plan provisions to be in effect during the plan year, such as the provisions that cover employee elective deferral contributions (salary-reduction contributions) under a 401(k) plan. The plan must be in existence before such employee elective deferral contributions can be made.
For example, the deadline for the 2021 tax year for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship business that uses the calendar year for tax purposes is October 17, 2022, if you extend your 2021 tax return. The deadline for making the contribution for the 2021 tax year is also October 17, 2022. However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for the 2021 tax year, you must have set up the plan by October 1, 2021. So, it’s too late to set up a plan for last year.
While you can delay until next year establishing a tax-favored retirement plan for this year (except for a SIMPLE-IRA plan), why wait? Get it done this year as part of your tax planning and start saving for retirement. We can provide more information on small business retirement plan alternatives. Be aware that, if your business has employees, you may have to make contributions for them, too.
With so many more employees working remotely over the last couple of years, many employers have had to grapple with whether to provide workers with cell phones or allow them to use personal phones for business purposes.
From a fringe benefits perspective, two questions typically arise when this matter comes up. First, will the IRS view employer-provided phones as a nontaxable fringe benefit — even if employees sometimes use the phones for personal calls? And second, instead of providing phones, could the employer reimburse employees on a nontaxable basis for business use of their personal phones?
Providing the phone
Business use of an employer-provided cell phone may be treated as a nontaxable working condition fringe benefit so long as the phone is provided “primarily for noncompensatory business purposes.” Examples of noncompensatory purposes include the need to be accessible to an employer at any time for work-related emergencies, or to be accessible to customers outside of normal business hours or when away from the office.
If the noncompensatory business purposes test is met, the value of any personal use of an employer-provided phone will be treated as a nontaxable “de minimis” fringe benefit. However, an employer-provided phone will fail the test — and trigger taxable income — if the phone is provided as a substitute for compensation, or to attract new employees or boost staff morale.
Reimbursements for personal phones
The IRS has indicated that it will analyze the reimbursement of employees’ expenses for their personal cell phones similarly. Reimbursements generally won’t be considered additional income or wages so long as three conditions are met:
So, let’s say an employer reimburses an employee for a basic cell phone plan that charges a flat monthly rate for a specified number of minutes of domestic calls, and some of those minutes are used for personal calls. In such a case, the portion of the cost attributable to personal use can be deemed a nontaxable “de minimis” fringe benefit if all three requirements noted above are met.
These rules also apply to “similar telecommunications equipment.” Although the IRS doesn’t define that phrase with complete clarity, the agency has affirmed that tablet devices are eligible. Our firm can provide further information and help you decide which fringe benefits are best for your organization.
Despite the robust job market, there are still some people losing their jobs. If you’re laid off or terminated from employment, taxes are probably the last thing on your mind. However, there are tax implications due to your changed personal and professional circumstances. Depending on your situation, the tax aspects can be complex and require you to make decisions that may affect your tax picture this year and for years to come.
Unemployment and severance pay
Unemployment compensation is taxable, as are payments for any accumulated vacation or sick time. Although severance pay is also taxable and subject to federal income tax withholding, some elements of a severance package may be specially treated. For example:
Also, be aware that under the COBRA rules, most employers that offer group health coverage must provide continuation coverage to most terminated employees and their families. While the cost of COBRA coverage may be expensive, the cost of any premium you pay for insurance that covers medical care is a medical expense, which is deductible if you itemize deductions and if your total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
If your ex-employer pays for some of your medical coverage for a period of time following termination, you won’t be taxed on the value of this benefit. And if you lost your job as a result of a foreign-trade-related circumstance, you may qualify for a refundable credit for 72.5% of your qualifying health insurance costs.
Employees whose employment is terminated may also need tax planning help to determine the best option for amounts they’ve accumulated in retirement plans sponsored by former employers. For most, a tax-free rollover to an IRA is the best move, if the terms of the plan allow a pre-retirement payout.
If the distribution from the retirement plan includes employer securities in a lump sum, the distribution is taxed under the lump-sum rules except that “net unrealized appreciation” in the value of the stock isn’t taxed until the securities are sold or otherwise disposed of in a later transaction. If you’re under age 59½, and must make withdrawals from your company plan or IRA to supplement your income, there may be an additional 10% penalty tax to pay unless you qualify for an exception.
Further, any loans you’ve taken out from your employer’s retirement plan, such as a 401(k)-plan loan, may be required to be repaid immediately, or within a specified period. If they aren’t, they may be treated as if the loan is in default. If the balance of the loan isn’t repaid within the required period, it will typically be treated as a taxable deemed distribution.
Contact us so that we can chart the best tax course for you during this transition period.
In today’s economy, many small businesses are strapped for cash. They may find it beneficial to barter or trade for goods and services instead of paying cash for them. Bartering is the oldest form of trade and the internet has made it easier to engage with other businesses. But if your business gets involved in bartering, be aware that the fair market value of goods that you receive in bartering is taxable income. And if you exchange services with another business, the transaction results in taxable income for both parties.
How it works
Here are some examples:
In these cases, both parties are taxed on the fair market value of the services received. This is the amount they would normally charge for the same services. If the parties agree to the value of the services in advance, that will be considered the fair market value unless there’s contrary evidence.
In addition, if services are exchanged for property, income is realized. For example,
Many businesses join barter clubs that facilitate barter exchanges. These clubs generally use a system of “credit units,” which are awarded to members who provide goods and services. The credits can be redeemed for goods and services from other members.
In general, bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. But if you participate in a barter club, you may be taxed on the value of credit units at the time they’re added to your account, even if you don’t redeem them for actual goods and services until a later year. For example, let’s say that you earn 2,500 credit units one year, and that each unit is redeemable for $2 in goods and services. In that year, you’ll have $5,000 of income. You won’t pay additional tax if you redeem the units the next year, since you’ve already been taxed once on that income.
If you join a barter club, you’ll be asked to provide your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number. You’ll also be asked to certify that you aren’t subject to backup withholding. Unless you make this certification, the club is required to withhold tax from your bartering income at a 24% rate.
Reporting to the IRS
By January 31 of each year, a barter club will send participants a Form 1099-B, “Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions,” which shows the value of cash, property, services and credits that you received from exchanges during the previous year. This information will also be reported to the IRS.
Conserve cash, reap benefits
By bartering, you can trade away excess inventory or provide services during slow times, all while hanging onto your cash. You may also find yourself bartering when a customer doesn’t have the money on hand to complete a transaction. As long as you’re aware of the federal and state tax consequences, these transactions can benefit all parties. If you need assistance or would like more information, contact us.
In a historically tenuous time to retain employees, small employers are particularly at risk. Whereas a large employer might be able to shift duties or promote from within to cover the departure of one or more staff members, small employers are often left high and dry with no one to cover certain shifts or tasks.
One tried-and-true approach to improving employee retention is offering a retirement plan. Doing so can boost morale and engagement — and demonstrate to employees that you care about their long-term well-being. Unfortunately, the start-up and operational costs associated with some conventional retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, could be too onerous to consider right now.
However, there’s one type of retirement plan that’s practically tailor-made for small businesses and other employers with minimal workforces: a Simplified Employee Pension paired with an IRA (SEP-IRA).
As its name indicates, a SEP-IRA essentially combines the concepts of an employer-provided pension with ownership of an IRA. That is, the employer establishes the plan and makes contributions, but participants own their accounts.
SEP-IRAs particularly suit employers with cash flow issues or that operate in industries that are cyclical by nature. This is because the employer can make larger contributions in good years but reduce those contributions — even down to zero — during down times. Plus, the plan could result in lower tax liability because every dollar contributed reduces taxable income.
How it works
Any business owner or self-employed person can open a SEP-IRA. For organizations with employees, an account is set up for each eligible participant, which is typically someone who:
Although employees own their accounts and are always 100% vested, only the employer can make contributions. The contribution rate must be the same for all employees, including the owner, generally up to 25% of a participant’s pay. The contribution limit in 2022 is $61,000.
A SEP-IRA account is a traditional IRA, so it follows the same investment, distribution and rollover rules. Contributions are 100% tax-deductible, and participants don’t get taxed on funds in the account until they make withdrawals.
Many small employers might assume that a retirement plan is beyond their reach — especially if they’ve only recently launched their organizations. However, SEP-IRAs are relatively easy to establish and administer. Please contact our firm for further information and help deciding whether one of these plans is right for you.
Common sense dictates that every company, no matter how small, should carry various forms of business insurance. But that doesn’t mean you should pay unnecessarily high premiums just to retain the coverage you need. Here are five ways to better control your insurance costs without sacrificing the quality of your policies:
1. Review coverage periodically. Make sure existing policies reflect your current circumstances. For example, if you’ve sold or sunset some equipment, remove it from your schedule of current assets. If you’ve reduced the number of workers on your payroll, adjust workers’ compensation estimates accordingly. (We’ll address this further below.) On the other hand, if you’ve added equipment, vehicles or staff, see that they’re appropriately covered.
2. Shop around. Spend some time and effort to compare coverage and costs of various insurers. Investigate whether you qualify for any discounts that you’re not getting. To facilitate the process, you might want to engage an insurance specialist in your industry. The right expert can help you weigh the total, true costs of various policies and advise you without a vested interest in selling you a particular product.
3. Actively manage workers’ compensation coverage. In some industries, such as construction and manufacturing, workers’ comp is a major focus. In others, business owners might pay little attention to it if accidents rarely occur. Be sure that you keep up with the costs of this coverage and make regular adjustments as the nature of work changes.
Workers’ compensation insurers assign risk classification codes to employees based on their duties, responsibilities, and level of exposure to the risk of injury or illness. Higher risk means higher premiums so, at least annually, check that you’re classifying employees accurately. For example, if an employee who now works from home is still classified as someone who travels regularly or works in a higher risk location, your premiums may be needlessly inflated.
4. Consider higher deductibles. If you’re comfortable assuming some additional risk, and your cash flow is strong enough, calculate whether you can save on premiums by raising the deductibles on certain policies. It could be worth paying a higher deductible so long as the premium savings is enough to cover a claim or two if they do occur.
5. Prioritize safety. Keeping employees safe is a worthy goal in and of itself, of course. But emphasizing the importance of safety to managers, supervisors, employees and any independent contractors you might have on-site can also positively affect your company’s insurance costs. After all, the premiums you pay are based in part on your claims history. There are various steps that every business should take to avoid injuries and illness:
By keeping your employees safe, and promoting wellness in every respect, you’ll not only decrease the likelihood of costly insurance claims, but you’ll also likely contribute to higher morale and more robust productivity. We can help you measure and assess your insurance costs so you can make the right adjustments without incurring unnecessary risk.
If you’re getting ready to file your 2021 tax return, and your tax bill is more than you’d like, there might still be a way to lower it. If you’re eligible, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the April 18, 2022, filing date and benefit from the tax savings on your 2021 return.
Do you qualify?
You can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:
For 2021, if you’re a joint tax return filer and you are covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $105,000 to $125,000 of modified AGI. If you’re single or a head of household, the phaseout range is $66,000 to $76,000 for 2021. For married filing separately, the phaseout range is $0 to $10,000. For 2021, if you’re not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but your spouse is, your deductible IRA contribution phases out with modified AGI of between $198,000 and $208,000.
Deductible IRA contributions reduce your current tax bill, and earnings within the IRA are tax deferred. However, every dollar you take out is taxed in full (and subject to a 10% penalty before age 59½, unless one of several exceptions apply).
IRAs often are referred to as “traditional IRAs” to differentiate them from Roth IRAs. You also have until April 18 to make a Roth IRA contribution. But while contributions to a traditional IRA are deductible, contributions to a Roth IRA aren’t. However, withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax-free as long as the account has been open at least five years and you’re age 59½ or older. (There are also income limits to contribute to a Roth IRA.)
Another IRA strategy that may help you save tax is to make a deductible IRA contribution, even if you don’t work. In general, you can’t make a deductible traditional IRA contribution unless you have wages or other earned income. However, an exception applies if your spouse is the breadwinner and you’re a homemaker. In this case, you may be able to take advantage of a spousal IRA.
How much can you contribute?
For 2021, if you’re eligible, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution of up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or over).
In addition, small business owners can set up and contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan up until the due date for their returns, including extensions. For 2021, the maximum contribution you can make to a SEP is $58,000.
Contact us if you want more information about IRAs or SEPs. Or ask about them when we’re preparing your return. We can help you save the maximum tax-advantaged amount for retirement.
Much has been written about the difficulties many employers face finding job candidates. The pandemic has acted as a massive disruption to the labor market and, beginning last year, we saw a perhaps surprising ripple in “the Great Resignation” — a marked trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs and leaving organizations with many open positions.
There’s no easy solution to the problem, but some employers might be able to ease their hiring woes by looking inward. That is, you could review your organizational chart and look for employees who could be promoted to open positions and leadership roles that the tight job market is making it hard to fill.
Upsides of the inside
Promoting existing employees is generally less expensive than hiring from the outside. You’ll save on the costs of finding, recruiting and hiring a new employee, such as advertising on job boards and engaging with recruiters. Promoting internally also can speed up the process; it’s usually faster and easier to identify and interview employees than to find and schedule meetings with candidates.
In addition, promoting employees can help boost morale and improve retention. One reason some employees leave their jobs is because they don’t see opportunities for advancement. Staff members might be less likely to feel this way if they see colleagues promoted to higher positions.
Another benefit is the level of familiarity you have with your employees. You probably already have a feel for their strengths, weaknesses, personalities and performance capabilities. So, promoting internally can sometimes be less risky than bringing in outsiders.
However, promoting existing employees isn’t risk-free. Some employees simply aren’t cut out to be supervisors or managers, or to fill other highly skilled roles. For example, a star salesperson might thrive when selling but flounder when asked to manage other salespeople. Plus, there could be resentment on the part of employees who weren’t promoted and now must report to someone who used to be their peer.
Continuing to look outside
Shifting more emphasis to internal promotions shouldn’t mean giving up on outside hires. The greater job market still offers a much larger pool of candidates. And new employees could provide fresh perspectives and innovative ideas for improving operations or moving in a better strategic direction.
Depending on the position, outside hires also can bring new skills and experience to the role that might lead to more efficient processes and improved financial performance. And recruiting outsiders could lessen resentment among employees who were passed over for a promotion, as well as the unhealthy competition that can arise when employees vie against each other for a position.
On the flip side, you can only know so much about outside candidates. For example, an external applicant’s resumé might look impressive, and the interviews could go great, but the individual’s personality might clash with your culture once work begins. This can lead to conflicts and morale problems that spread throughout a department or even the organization. Or the person’s actual skill level might not match up to what was presented on the written page.
The specific job description and circumstances related to an open position will ultimately determine whether you should promote from within or recruit from the outside. Nonetheless, it’s generally a good idea to be flexible when choosing the optimal approach. You might be surprised to learn that the perfect candidate is already on the payroll.
Under just about any circumstances, the word “leakage” has negative connotations. And so it follows that this indeed holds true for retirement planning as well.
In this context, leakage refers to early, pre-retirement withdrawals from an account. Now, as a business owner who sponsors a qualified retirement plan, you might say, “Well, that’s my participants’ business, not mine.”
However, there are valid reasons to care about the issue and perhaps address it with employees who participate in your plan.
Why it matters
For starters, leakage can lead to higher plan expenses. Fees are often determined on a per-account or per-participant basis. When a plan loses funds to leakage, total assets and individual account sizes shrink, which tends to hurt administrative efficiency and raise costs.
More broadly, if your employees are taking pre-retirement withdrawals, it could indicate they’re facing unusual financial challenges. These usually have a negative impact on productivity and work quality. What’s more, workers who raid their accounts may be unable to retire when they reach retirement age.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has put many people in difficult financial positions that have led them to consider withdrawing some funds from their retirement accounts. More recently, “the Great Resignation” might have some account holders pondering whether they should quit their jobs and pull out some retirement funds to live on temporarily or use to start a gig or business of their own.
What you might do
Perhaps the most important thing business owners can do to limit leakage is educate and remind employees about how pre-retirement withdrawals can diminish their accounts and delay their anticipated retirement dates. While you’re at it, provide broader financial education to help workers better manage their money, amass savings, and minimize or avoid the need for an early withdrawal.
Some companies offer emergency loans that are repayable through payroll deductions, thus providing an avenue around the use of retirement funds. Others have revised their plan designs to reduce the number of situations under which plan participants can take out hardship withdrawals or loans.
Minimize the impact
“Roughly 22% of net contributions made by those 50 or younger leaks out of the retirement savings system in a given year,” according to a 2021 report released by the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Some percentage of retirement plan leakage will probably always occur to some extent. Nonetheless, being aware of the problem and taking steps to minimize it are worthy measures for any business that sponsors a qualified plan. We can answer any questions you might have about leakage or other aspects of plan administration and compliance.
If you own your own company and travel for business, you may wonder whether you can deduct the costs of having your spouse accompany you on trips.
The rules for deducting a spouse’s travel costs are very restrictive. First of all, to qualify, your spouse must be your employee. This means you can’t deduct the travel costs of a spouse, even if his or her presence has a bona fide business purpose, unless the spouse is a bona fide employee of your business. This requirement prevents tax deductibility in most cases.
If your spouse is your employee, then you can deduct his or her travel costs if his or her presence on the trip serves a bona fide business purpose. Merely having your spouse perform some incidental business service, such as typing up notes from a meeting, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. In general, it isn’t sufficient for his or her presence to be “helpful” to your business pursuits — it must be necessary.
In most cases, a spouse’s participation in social functions, for example as a host or hostess, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. That is, if his or her purpose is to establish general goodwill for customers or associates, this is usually insufficient. Further, if there’s a vacation element to the trip (for example, if your spouse spends time sightseeing), it will be more difficult to establish a business purpose for his or her presence on the trip. On the other hand, a bona fide business purpose exists if your spouse’s presence is necessary to care for a serious medical condition that you have.
If your spouse’s travel satisfies these tests, the normal deductions for business travel away from home can be claimed. These include the costs of transportation, meals, lodging, and incidental costs such as dry cleaning, phone calls, etc.
A non-employee spouse
Even if your spouse’s travel doesn’t satisfy the requirements, however, you may still be able to deduct a substantial portion of the trip’s costs. This is because the rules don’t require you to allocate 50% of your travel costs to your spouse. You need only allocate any additional costs you incur for him or her. For example, in many hotels the cost of a single room isn’t that much lower than the cost of a double. If a single would cost you $150 a night and a double would cost you and your spouse $200, the disallowed portion of the cost allocable to your spouse would only be $50. In other words, you can write off the cost of what you would have paid traveling alone. To prove your deduction, ask the hotel for a room rate schedule showing single rates for the days you’re staying.
And if you drive your own car or rent one, the whole cost will be fully deductible even if your spouse is along. Of course, if public transportation is used, and for meals, any separate costs incurred by your spouse wouldn’t be deductible.
Contact us if you have questions about this or other tax-related topics.
If you made large gifts to your children, grandchildren or other heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file a 2021 gift tax return. And in some cases, even if it’s not required to file one, it may be beneficial to do so anyway.
Who must file?
The annual gift tax exclusion has increased in 2022 to $16,000 but was $15,000 for 2021. Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2021 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:
Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($11.7 million for 2021). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.
Why you might want to file
No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2021 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:
But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.
The deadline is April 18
The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2021 returns, it’s April 18, 2022 — or October 17, 2022, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 18, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2021 gift tax return, contact us.
By now, most business owners view technology upgrades as inevitable. Whether hardware or software, the tech your company relies on to operate will need to change slightly or even drastically for you to stay competitive.
Strange as it may sound, technology upgrades demand a bit of soul searching. That is, before spending the money, you need to dig deep for insights about what your business really needs and whether your employees or customers will appreciate your efforts.
Ask the right questions
Begin the decision process with a series of inquiries. That is, sit down with your leadership team and ask questions such as:
Assuming you already have a technology infrastructure in place, compatibility is an issue, too. If you’re using an older operating system, new software could be buggy or flat-out incompatible. In either case, you could incur substantial additional costs to update or replace your operating system, which might involve new hardware and impact other software.
When deciding whether to upgrade internal systems, get input from your staff. For example, your accounting personnel should be able to tell you what types of reports they would want from upgraded financial management software. From there, you can establish criteria for comparing different packages.
If you’re considering changes to a “front-facing” system, you might want to first survey customers to determine whether the upgrade would improve their experience. Ask them questions about what works and what doesn’t to assess whether major or minor changes are needed.
Create a “hot list”
As you’re no doubt aware, there’s no shortage of hardware and software vendors out there. So, just as you’d do your homework on a major asset purchase or the lease of a large office space, do it for a technology upgrade as well.
Generally, longevity is a plus. Look for companies that have been in business for at least five to 10 years, have a track record of successful implementations and can provide references from satisfied customers. Also find out what kind of technical support is included with your purchase.
For example, if you’re doing a software upgrade, is training part of the package? If not, you’ll likely need to send one or more IT staffers out for training or engage a third-party trainer, both of which will cost you additional dollars. And keep in mind that, if you buy a top-of-the-line system but the vendor’s customer service is nonexistent, you and your employees probably won’t be happy.
Your goal is to create a “hot list” of top vendors. With this list in hand, you can get down to the serious business of comparing the various bids. To aid you in this critical decision, ask for free trial periods or online demos to help you choose the best product for your company.
Ensure a happy ending
You’ve likely heard horror stories of businesses that haphazardly attempted to upgrade their technology only to lose time, money and morale fixing the resulting problems. Approach this task cautiously to ensure your upgrade story has a happy ending. For help estimating the costs and projecting the financial impact of a tech upgrade, please contact us.
On February 4, the Department of Labor, IRS and Department of Health and Human Services issued additional frequently asked question (FAQ) guidance addressing the terms and conditions under which group health plans must cover over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
The FAQs build on earlier guidance (FAQs Part 51) that established, during the COVID-19 public health emergency, group health plans must cover OTC COVID-19 tests that can be self-administered and self-read without the involvement of health care providers. Here are some highlights of the additional FAQs.
Direct coverage safe harbor
FAQs Part 51 established a safe harbor for plans providing direct coverage of OTC COVID-19 tests through their pharmacy networks and direct-to-consumer shipping programs. The guidance allowed such plans to cap reimbursement for tests bought from nonpreferred sellers at $12 per test or the actual purchase price, if lower.
Under the safe harbor, plans must ensure that participants have adequate access to OTC COVID-19 tests with no upfront out-of-pocket expenses. A new FAQ clarifies that “adequate access” generally requires plans to make available “at least one direct-to-consumer shipping mechanism and at least one in-person mechanism.”
A direct-to-consumer shipping mechanism can include online or telephone ordering and may be provided through:
A plan will be considered to have provided a direct-to-consumer shipping mechanism if it provides direct in-person coverage through specified retailers, and those retailers maintain online platforms where individuals can order tests to be delivered. Plans must cover reasonable shipping costs consistent with other items provided via mail order.
Plans implementing in-person mechanisms must ensure access to an adequate number of purchase locations. The FAQs identify facts and circumstances the agencies will consider when determining adequacy. Plans need not cover all brands of OTC COVID-19 tests under a direct coverage program. Rather, direct coverage may be limited to tests made by certain manufacturers, such as those with which the plan has a contractual relationship or from which the plan is able to obtain tests directly.
Health FSAs, HRAs and HSAs
The cost of an OTC COVID-19 test is a medical expense generally reimbursable by a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). However, an individual can’t be reimbursed more than once for the same expense. Thus, the cost (or a portion thereof) of a test paid or reimbursed by a plan or insurer cannot be reimbursed by a Health FSA or HRA.
Likewise, an expense “compensated for by insurance or otherwise” isn’t a qualified medical expense for Health Savings Account (HSA) distribution purposes. Employers that sponsor group health plans might wish to advise their participants not to seek reimbursement from a Health FSA or HRA for a test that was paid or reimbursed by a plan or an insurer. Participants also shouldn’t use a Health FSA or HRA debit card to buy tests for which the participant intends to seek reimbursement from a plan.
Anyone who mistakenly receives reimbursement from a Health FSA or HRA for tests covered by another plan should contact the Health FSA or HRA administrator regarding correction procedures. Those who mistakenly take a distribution from an HSA must either include the distribution in gross income or, if permitted, repay the distribution to the HSA.
The additional FAQs provide valuable clarifications for employers (and insurers) that might be scrambling to comply with the OTC coverage requirement that took effect January 15, 2022. Our firm can provide further information.
If you’re married, you may wonder whether you should file joint or separate tax returns. The answer depends on your individual tax situation.
In general, it depends on which filing status results in the lowest tax. But keep in mind that, if you and your spouse file a joint return, each of you is “jointly and severally” liable for the tax on your combined income. And you’re both equally liable for any additional tax the IRS assesses, plus interest and most penalties. That means that the IRS can come after either of you to collect the full amount.
Although there are “innocent spouse” provisions in the law that may offer relief, they have limitations. Therefore, even if a joint return results in less tax, you may want to file separately if you want to only be responsible for your own tax.
In most cases, filing jointly offers the most tax savings, especially when the spouses have different income levels. Combining two incomes can bring some of it out of a higher tax bracket. For example, if one spouse has $75,000 of taxable income and the other has just $15,000, filing jointly instead of separately can save $2,499 on their 2021 taxes, when they file this year.
Filing separately doesn’t mean you go back to using the “single” rates that applied before you were married. Instead, each spouse must use “married filing separately” rates. They’re less favorable than the single rates.
However, there are cases when people save tax by filing separately. For example:
One spouse has significant medical expenses. Medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI). If a medical expense deduction is claimed on a spouse’s separate return, that spouse’s lower separate AGI, as compared to the higher joint AGI, can result in larger total deductions.
Some tax breaks are only available on a joint return. The child and dependent care credit, adoption expense credit, American Opportunity tax credit and Lifetime Learning credit are only available to married couples on joint returns. And you can’t take the credit for the elderly or the disabled if you file separately unless you and your spouse lived apart for the entire year. You also may not be able to deduct IRA contributions if you or your spouse were covered by an employer retirement plan and you file separate returns. And you can’t exclude adoption assistance payments or interest income from series EE or Series I savings bonds used for higher education expenses.
Social Security benefits may be taxed more. Benefits are tax-free if your “provisional income” (AGI with certain modifications plus half of your Social Security benefits) doesn’t exceed a “base amount.” The base amount is $32,000 on a joint return, but zero on separate returns (or $25,000 if the spouses didn’t live together for the whole year).
The decision you make on filing your federal tax return may affect your state or local income tax bill, so the total tax impact should be compared. There’s often no simple answer to whether a couple should file separate returns. A number of factors must be examined. We can look at your tax bill jointly and separately. Contact us to prepare your return or if you have any questions.
Do you want to withdraw cash from your closely held corporation at a minimum tax cost? The simplest way is to distribute cash as a dividend. However, a dividend distribution isn’t tax-efficient since it’s taxable to you to the extent of your corporation’s “earnings and profits.” It’s also not deductible by the corporation.
Fortunately, there are several alternative methods that may allow you to withdraw cash from a corporation while avoiding dividend treatment. Here are five areas where you may want to take action:
1. Capital repayments. To the extent that you’ve capitalized the corporation with debt, including amounts you’ve advanced to the business, the corporation can repay the debt without the repayment being treated as a dividend. Additionally, interest paid on the debt can be deducted by the corporation. This assumes that the debt has been properly documented with terms that characterize debt and that the corporation doesn’t have an excessively high debt-to-equity ratio. If not, the debt repayment may be taxed as a dividend. If you make future cash contributions to the corporation, consider structuring them as debt to facilitate later withdrawals on a tax-advantaged basis.
2. Salary. Reasonable compensation that you (or family members) receive for services rendered to the corporation is deductible by the business. However, it’s also taxable to the recipient. The same rule applies to any compensation in the form of rent that you receive from the corporation for the use of property. In both cases, the amount of compensation must be reasonable in relation to the services rendered or the value of the property provided. If it’s excessive, the excess will be nondeductible and treated as a corporate distribution.
3. Loans. You may withdraw cash from the corporation tax-free by borrowing from it. However, to avoid having the loan characterized as a corporate distribution, it should be properly documented in a loan agreement or a note and be made on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would lend money to you. This should include a provision for interest and principal. All interest and principal payments should be made when required under the loan terms. Also, consider the effect of the corporation’s receipt of interest income.
4. Fringe benefits. Consider obtaining the equivalent of a cash withdrawal in fringe benefits that are deductible by the corporation and not taxable to you. Examples are life insurance, certain medical benefits, disability insurance and dependent care. Most of these benefits are tax-free only if provided on a nondiscriminatory basis to other employees of the corporation. You can also establish a salary reduction plan that allows you (and other employees) to take a portion of your compensation as nontaxable benefits, rather than as taxable compensation.
5. Property sales. Another way to withdraw cash from the corporation is to sell property to it. However, certain sales should be avoided. For example, you shouldn’t sell property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a loss, since the loss will be disallowed. And you shouldn’t sell depreciable property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a gain, since the gain will be treated as ordinary income, rather than capital gain. A sale should be on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would purchase the property. You may need to obtain an independent appraisal to establish the property’s value.
Keep taxes low
If you’re interested in discussing any of these approaches, contact us. We’ll help you get the most out of your corporation at the minimum tax cost.
Read any list of the top trending HR issues of 2022 and you’ll likely see a mention of mental health support. What was once among the least talked about roles of an employer has become a widely discussed topic and, increasingly for many job applicants and employees, an expectation.
Employers, by and large, might be falling short. According to a September 2021 survey commissioned by software provider Modern Health and conducted by Forrester Consulting, 87% of respondents (U.S employees and managers) want their employers to care about their mental health. But only 66% of respondents believe their employers actually do care.
So, how can you show you care? Openly recognize the mental health challenges that employees face and take steps, appropriate to your organization’s budget and culture, to help workers cope. Here are four ideas:
1. Add an employee assistance program (EAP). If your organization already offers a health care benefits package, augmenting it with an EAP is a relatively straightforward and comprehensive measure.
An EAP is a voluntary and confidential work-based intervention program designed to help employees and their dependent family members deal with issues that may be affecting their mental health, emotional well-being and job performance. The cost tends to vary based on the size of the employer (larger organizations pay less per employee) and the scope of benefits provided.
2. Offer flexible scheduling. The COVID-19 pandemic has largely forced employers’ hands when it comes to allowing employees to work remotely and on less strict schedules. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Offering more flexible work times has long been a recommended practice for attracting job candidates and retaining good workers. If your organization has had to alter its policies on where and when employees perform their duties, look to build on this flexibility — with an eye toward work/life balance and mental health — rather than take it away when pandemic-related measures completely fade.
3. Train supervisors. Often, the first and perhaps only person to notice that an employee could be suffering from mental health issues is a supervisor. The problem then becomes how and when should the supervisor best respond? In many cases, people managers don’t know precisely what to do or whether they could get the organization into legal trouble by overstepping.
The answer lies in training. You could develop your own mental-health-focused leadership training program in consultation with your attorney. Or you could engage an HR consulting firm to provide the training. Both options will call for an investment of dollars and time, but the result should be supervisors who can act quickly and knowledgably to get employees the help they need.
4. Give them an app. This may sound like a lazy option, and it certainly shouldn’t be the only thing you do. However, many employers are bulk-purchasing employee subscriptions to mobile apps that help users monitor their mental health, engage in meditation, focus better while working and improve sleep habits.
There are various products to choose from and a cost-to-benefit ratio to consider. If nothing else, providing employees with an app can serve as a good “icebreaker” regarding mental health and a means of showing that, indeed, you do care.
If you donated to charity last year, letters from the charities may have appeared in your mailbox recently acknowledging the donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter — can you still claim a deduction for the gift on your 2021 income tax return? It depends.
To prove a charitable donation for which you claim a tax deduction, you need to comply with IRS substantiation requirements. For a donation of $250 or more, this includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation and the value of any such goods or services.
“Contemporaneous” means the earlier of:
Therefore, if you made a donation in 2021 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2021 return. Contact the charity now and request a written acknowledgment.
Keep in mind that, if you made a cash gift of under $250 with a check or credit card, generally a canceled check, bank statement or credit card statement is sufficient. However, if you received something in return for the donation, you generally must reduce your deduction by its value — and the charity is required to provide you a written acknowledgment as described earlier.
Temporary deduction for nonitemizers is gone
In general, taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions (and instead claim the standard deduction) can’t claim a charitable deduction. Under the COVID-19 relief laws, individuals who don’t itemize deductions can claim a federal income tax write-off for up to $300 of cash contributions to IRS-approved charities for the 2021 tax year. This deduction is $600 for married joint filers for cash contributions made in 2021. Unfortunately, the deduction for nonitemizers isn’t available for 2022 unless Congress acts to extend it.
Additional substantiation requirements apply to some types of donations. For example, if you donate property valued at more than $500, a completed Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) must be attached to your return or the deduction isn’t allowed.
And for donated property with a value of more than $5,000, you’re generally required to obtain a qualified appraisal and to attach an appraisal summary to your tax return.
We can help you determine whether you have sufficient substantiation for the donations you hope to deduct on your 2021 income tax return — and guide you on the substantiation you’ll need for gifts you’re planning this year to ensure you can enjoy the desired deductions on your 2022 return.
If you’re in business for yourself as a sole proprietor, or you’re planning to start a business, you need to know about the tax aspects of your venture. Here are eight important issues to consider:
1. You report income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040. The net income is taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. Your business expenses are deductible against gross income and not as itemized deductions. If you have any losses, they’re generally deductible against your other income, subject to special rules relating to hobby losses, passive activity losses and losses in activities in which you weren’t “at risk.”
2. You may be eligible for the pass-through deduction. To the extent your business generates qualified business income, you’re eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. The deduction is taken “below the line,” so it reduces taxable income, rather than being taken “above the line” against gross income. You can take the deduction even if you don’t itemize and instead take the standard deduction.
3. You might be able to deduct home office expenses. If you work from home, perform management or administrative tasks from a home office or store product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable portion of certain costs. And if you have a home office, you may be able to deduct expenses of traveling from there to another work location.
4. You must pay self-employment taxes. For 2022, you pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) at a 15.3% rate on your self-employment net earnings of up to $147,000 and Medicare tax only at a 2.9% rate on the excess. An additional 0.9% Medicare tax is imposed on self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns, $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately, and $200,000 in all other cases. Self-employment tax is imposed in addition to income tax, but you can deduct half of your self-employment tax as an adjustment to income.
5. You can deduct 100% of your health insurance costs as a business expense. This means your deduction for medical care insurance won’t be subject to the rule that limits your medical expense deduction to amounts in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
6. You must make quarterly estimated tax payments. For 2022, these are due April 18, June 15, September 15 and January 17, 2023.
7. You should keep complete records of your income and expenses. Carefully record expenses in order to claim all of the deductions to which you are entitled. Certain expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals and home office expenses, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limits on deductibility.
8. If you hire employees, you need a taxpayer identification number and you must withhold and pay over employment taxes.
We can help
Contact us if you’d like more information or assistance with the tax or recordkeeping aspects of your business.
If you run a business and accept payments through third-party networks such as Zelle, Venmo, Square or PayPal, you could be affected by new tax reporting requirements that take effect for 2022. They don’t alter your tax liability, but they could add to your recordkeeping burden, as well as the number of tax-related documents you receive every January in anticipation of tax-filing season.
Form 1099-K primer
Form 1099-K, “Payment Card and Third-Party Network Transactions,” is an information return that reports certain payment transactions to the IRS and the taxpayer who receives the payments. Since it was first introduced in 2012, the form has been used to report payments:
For 2021 and prior years, the threshold was defined as gross payments that exceeded $20,000 and more than 200 such transactions. Note that no minimum threshold applies to payment card transactions — all such payments must be reported.
Taxpayers should receive a Form 1099-K from each “payment settlement entity” (PSE) from which they received payments in settlement of reportable payment transactions (that is, a payment card or third-party network transaction) during the tax year. Form 1099-K reports the gross amount of all reportable transactions for the year and by month. The dollar amount of each transaction is determined on the transaction date.
In the case of third-party network payments, the gross amount of a reportable payment doesn’t include any adjustments for credits, cash equivalents, discounts, fees, refunds or other amounts. In other words, the full amount reported might not represent the taxable amount.
Businesses (including independent contractors) should consider the amounts reported when calculating their gross receipts for income tax purposes. Depending on filing status, the amounts generally should be reported on Schedule C (Form 1040), “Profit or Loss From Business, Sole Proprietorship;” Schedule E (Form 1040), “Supplemental Income and Loss;” Schedule F (Form 1040), “Profit or Loss From Farming;” or the appropriate return for partnerships or corporations.
Understanding the new rules
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was signed into law in March of 2021, brought significant changes to the requirements regarding Form 1099-K. The changes are intended to improve voluntary tax compliance.
Beginning in 2022, the number of transactions component of the threshold for reporting third-party network transactions is eliminated, and the gross payments threshold drops to only $600. The change is expected to boost the number of Forms 1099-K many businesses receive in January 2023 for the 2022 tax year and going forward.
The ARPA also includes an important clarification. Since Form 1099-K was introduced, stakeholders have been uncertain about which types of third-party network transactions should be included. The ARPA makes clear that these transactions are reportable only if they’re for goods and services. Payments for royalties, rent and other transactions settled through a third-party network are reported on Form 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Information.”
The ARPA changes heighten only the reporting obligations of third-party payment networks; they don’t affect individual taxpayer requirements. They might, however, reduce your odds of inadvertently underreporting income and paying the price down the road.
Taking steps toward accurate reporting
While the increased reporting doesn’t require any specific changes of affected taxpayers, you’d be wise to institute some measures to ensure the reporting is accurate. For example, consider monitoring your payments and the amounts so you know whether you should receive a Form 1099-K from a particular PSE. Notably, you’re required to report the associated income regardless of whether you receive the form.
You’ll also want to step up your recordkeeping to allow you to reconcile any Forms 1099-K with the actual amounts received. If you have multiple sources of income, track and report each separately even if you receive a single Form 1099-K with gross payments for all of the businesses. For example, if you process both retail sales and rent payments on the same card terminal, your tax preparer would report the retail sales on Schedule C and the rent on Schedule E.
If you permit customers to get cash back when using debit cards for purchases, the cash back amounts will be included on Form 1099-K. Those amounts generally aren’t included in your gross receipts or businesses expenses, though, making it critical that you track cash-back activity to prevent inclusion.
Amounts reported could be inaccurate if you share a credit card terminal with another person or business. Where required, consider filing and furnishing the appropriate information return (for example, Form 1099-K or Form 1099-MISC) for each party with whom you shared a card terminal. In addition, keep records of payments issued to every party sharing your terminal, including shared terminal written agreements and cancelled checks.
Other potential landmines include:
If you receive a form with errors in your taxpayer identification number or payment amount, request a corrected form from the PSE and maintain records of all related correspondence.
It may seem tempting to put off the steps necessary to establish solid recordkeeping procedures for payments from third-party networks, but that would be a mistake. We can help you set up the necessary processes and procedures now so you’re in compliance and not scrambling at tax time.
Now that 2022 is up and running, business owners can expect to face a few challenges and tough choices as the year rolls along. No matter how busy things get, don’t forget about an easily accessible and highly informative resource that’s probably just a few clicks away: your financial statements.
Assuming you follow U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or similar reporting standards, your financial statements will comprise three major components: an income statement, a balance sheet and a statement of cash flows. Each one contains different, but equally important, information about your company’s financial performance. Together, they can help you and your leadership team make optimal business decisions.
Revenue and expenses
The first component of your financial statements is the income statement. It shows revenue and expenses over a given accounting period. A commonly used term when discussing income statements is “net income.” This is the income remaining after you’ve paid all expenses, including taxes.
It’s also important to check out “gross profit.” This is the income earned after subtracting the cost of goods sold from revenue. Cost of goods sold includes the cost of direct labor and materials, as well as any manufacturing overhead costs required to make a product.
The income statement also lists sales, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses. They reflect functions, such as marketing and payroll, that support a company’s production of products or services. Often, SG&A costs are relatively fixed, no matter how well your business is doing. Calculate the ratio of SG&A costs to revenue: If the percentage increases over time, business may be slowing down.
Assets, liabilities and net worth
The second component is the balance sheet. It tallies your assets, liabilities and net worth to create a snapshot of the company’s financial health on the financial statement date. Assets are customarily listed in order of liquidity. Current assets (such as accounts receivable) are expected to be converted into cash within a year. Long-term assets (such as plant and equipment) will be used to generate revenue beyond the next 12 months.
Similarly, liabilities are listed in order of maturity. Current liabilities (such as accounts payable) come due within a year. Long-term liabilities are payment obligations that extend beyond the current year.
True to its name, the balance sheet must balance — that is, assets must equal liabilities plus net worth. So, net worth is the extent to which assets exceed liabilities. It may signal financial distress if your net worth is negative.
Other red flags include current assets that grow faster than sales and a deteriorating ratio of current assets to current liabilities. These trends could indicate that management is managing working capital less efficiently than in previous periods.
Inflows and outflows of cash
The statement of cash flows shows all the cash flowing in and out of your business during the accounting period.
Cash inflows typically come from selling products or services, borrowing and selling stock. Outflows generally result from paying expenses, investing in capital equipment and repaying debt. The statement of cash flows is organized into three sections, cash flows from activities related to:
Ideally, a company will generate enough cash from operations to cover its expenses. If not, it might need to borrow money or sell stock to survive.
The good and the bad
Sometimes business owners get into the habit of thinking of their financial statements as a regularly occurring formality performed to satisfy outside parties such as investors and lenders. On the contrary, your financial statements contain a wealth of data that can allow you to calculate ratios and identify trends — both good and bad — affecting the business. For help generating accurate financial statements, as well as analyzing the information therein, please contact us.
Are you considering a move to another state when you retire? Perhaps you want to relocate to an area where your loved ones live or where the weather is more pleasant. But while you’re thinking about how many square feet you’ll need in a retirement home, don’t forget to factor in state and local taxes. Establishing residency for state tax purposes may be more complicated than it initially appears to be.
What are all applicable taxes?
It may seem like a good option to simply move to a state with no personal income tax. But, to make a good decision, you must consider all taxes that can potentially apply to a state resident. In addition to income taxes, these may include property taxes, sales taxes and estate taxes.
If the state you’re considering has an income tax, look at what types of income it taxes. Some states, for example, don’t tax wages but do tax interest and dividends. And some states offer tax breaks for pension payments, retirement plan distributions and Social Security payments.
Is there a state estate tax?
The federal estate tax currently doesn’t apply to many people. For 2021, the federal estate tax exemption is $11.7 million ($23.4 million for a married couple). But some states levy estate tax with a much lower exemption and some states may also have an inheritance tax in addition to (or in lieu of) an estate tax.
How do you establish domicile?
If you make a permanent move to a new state and want to make sure you’re not taxed in the state you came from, it’s important to establish legal domicile in the new location. The definition of legal domicile varies from state to state. In general, domicile is your fixed and permanent home location and the place where you plan to return, even after periods of residing elsewhere.
When it comes to domicile, each state has its own rules. You don’t want to wind up in a worst-case scenario: Two states could claim you owe state income taxes if you establish domicile in the new state but don’t successfully terminate domicile in the old one. Additionally, if you die without clearly establishing domicile in just one state, both the old and new states may claim that your estate owes income taxes and any state estate tax.
The more time that elapses after you change states and the more steps you take to establish domicile in the new state, the harder it will be for your old state to claim that you’re still domiciled there for tax purposes. Some ways to help lock in domicile in a new state are to:
If an income tax return is required in the new state, file a resident return. File a nonresident return or no return (whichever is appropriate) in the old state. We can help file these returns.
Before deciding where you want to live in retirement, do some research and contact us. We can help you avoid unpleasant tax surprises.
Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs have been around for decades and the rules surrounding them have changed many times. What hasn’t changed is that they can help you save for retirement on a tax-favored basis. Here’s an overview.
You can make an annual deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:
For example, in 2022, if you’re a joint return filer covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $109,000 to $129,000 of MAGI ($68,000 to $78,000 for singles).
Deductible IRA contributions reduce your current tax bill, and earnings are tax-deferred. However, withdrawals are taxed in full (and subject to a 10% penalty if taken before age 59½, unless one of several exceptions apply). You must begin making minimum withdrawals by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 72.
You can make an annual nondeductible IRA contribution without regard to employer plan coverage and your MAGI. The earnings in a nondeductible IRA are tax-deferred but taxed when distributed (and subject to a 10% penalty if taken early, unless an exception applies).
You must begin making minimum withdrawals by April 1 of the year after the year you reach age 72. Nondeductible contributions aren’t taxed when withdrawn. If you’ve made deductible and nondeductible IRA contributions, a portion of each distribution is treated as coming from nontaxable IRA contributions (and the rest is taxed).
The maximum annual IRA contribution (deductible or nondeductible, or a combination) is $6,000 for 2022 and 2021 ($7,000 if age 50 or over). Additionally, your contribution can’t exceed the amount of your compensation includible in income for that year. There’s no age limit for making contributions, as long as you have compensation income (before 2021, traditional IRA contributions weren’t allowed after age 70½).
You can make an annual contribution to a Roth IRA if your income doesn’t exceed certain levels based on filing status. For example, in 2022, if you’re a joint return filer, the maximum annual Roth IRA contribution phases out between $204,000 and $214,000 of MAGI ($129,000 to $144,000 for singles). Annual Roth contributions can be made up to the amount allowed as a contribution to a traditional IRA, reduced by the amount you contribute for the year to non-Roth IRAs, but not reduced by contributions to a SEP or SIMPLE plan.
Roth IRA contributions aren’t deductible. However, earnings are tax-deferred and (unlike a traditional IRA) withdrawals are tax-free if paid out:
You can make Roth IRA contributions even after reaching age 72 (if you have compensation income), and you don’t have to take required minimum distributions from a Roth. You can “roll over” (or convert) a traditional IRA to a Roth regardless of your income. The amount taken out of the traditional IRA and rolled into the Roth is treated for tax purposes as a regular withdrawal (but not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty).
Contact us for more information about how you may be able to benefit from IRAs.
If you operate a business, or you’re starting a new one, you know you need to keep records of your income and expenses. Specifically, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim all of the tax deductions to which you’re entitled. And you want to make sure you can defend the amounts reported on your tax returns in case you’re ever audited by the IRS.
Be aware that there’s no one way to keep business records. But there are strict rules when it comes to keeping records and proving expenses are legitimate for tax purposes. Certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals and home office costs, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations.
Here are two recent court cases to illustrate some of the issues.
Case 1: To claim deductions, an activity must be engaged in for profit
A business expense can be deducted if a taxpayer can establish that the primary objective of the activity is making a profit. The expense must also be substantiated and be an ordinary and necessary business expense. In one case, a taxpayer claimed deductions that created a loss, which she used to shelter other income from tax.
She engaged in various activities including acting in the entertainment industry and selling jewelry. The IRS found her activities weren’t engaged in for profit and it disallowed her deductions.
The taxpayer took her case to the U.S. Tax Court, where she found some success. The court found that she was engaged in the business of acting during the years in issue. However, she didn’t prove that all claimed expenses were ordinary and necessary business expenses. The court did allow deductions for expenses including headshots, casting agency fees, lessons to enhance the taxpayer’s acting skills and part of the compensation for a personal assistant. But the court disallowed other deductions because it found insufficient evidence “to firmly establish a connection” between the expenses and the business.
In addition, the court found that the taxpayer didn’t prove that she engaged in her jewelry sales activity for profit. She didn’t operate it in a businesslike manner, spend sufficient time on it or seek out expertise in the jewelry industry. Therefore, all deductions related to that activity were disallowed. (TC Memo 2021-107)
Case 2: A business must substantiate claimed deductions with records
A taxpayer worked as a contract emergency room doctor at a medical center. He also started a business to provide emergency room physicians overseas. On Schedule C of his tax return, he deducted expenses related to his home office, travel, driving, continuing education, cost of goods sold and interest. The IRS disallowed most of the deductions.
As evidence in Tax Court, the doctor showed charts listing his expenses but didn’t provide receipts or other substantiation showing the expenses were actually paid. He also failed to account for the portion of expenses attributable to personal activity.
The court disallowed the deductions stating that his charts weren’t enough and didn’t substantiate that the expenses were ordinary and necessary in his business. It noted that “even an otherwise deductible expense may be denied without sufficient substantiation.” The doctor also didn’t qualify to take home office deductions because he didn’t prove it was his principal place of business. (TC Memo 2022-1)
We can help
Contact us if you need assistance retaining adequate business records. Taking a meticulous, proactive approach can protect your deductions and help make an audit much less difficult.
The IRS began accepting 2021 individual tax returns on January 24. If you haven’t prepared yet for tax season, here are three quick tips to help speed processing and avoid hassles.
Tip 1. Contact us soon for an appointment to prepare your tax return.
Tip 2. Gather all documents needed to prepare an accurate return. This includes W-2 and 1099 forms. In addition, you may have received statements or letters in connection with Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) or advance Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments.
Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, tells taxpayers who received CTC payments how much they received. Since the advance payments represented about one-half of the total credit, taxpayers who received CTC payments need to file a return to collect the rest of the credit. Letter 6475, Your Third Economic Impact Payment, tells taxpayers who received an EIP in 2021 the amount of that payment. Taxpayers need to know the amount to determine if they can claim an additional amount on their tax returns.
Taxpayers who received an EIP or CTC payments must include that information on their returns. Failure to include this information, according to the IRS, means a return is incomplete and will require additional processing, which may delay any refund owed to the taxpayer.
Tip 3. Check certain information on your prepared return. Each Social Security number on your tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card(s). Likewise, make sure that names aren’t misspelled. If you’re receiving your refund by direct deposit, check the bank account number.
Failure to file or pay on time
What if you don’t file on time or can’t pay your tax bill? Separate penalties apply for failing to pay and failing to file. The penalties imposed are a percentage of the taxes you didn’t pay or didn’t pay on time. If you obtain an extension for the filing due date (until October 17), you aren’t filing late unless you miss the extended due date. However, a filing extension doesn’t apply to your responsibility for payment. If you obtain an extension, you’re required to pay an estimate of any owed taxes by the regular deadline to avoid possible penalties.
The penalties for failing to file and failing to pay can be quite severe. (They may be excused by the IRS if your lateness is due to “reasonable cause,” such as illness or a death in the family.) Contact us for questions or concerns about how to proceed in your situation.
While some businesses have closed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, many new ventures have launched. Entrepreneurs have cited a number of reasons why they decided to start a business in the midst of a pandemic. For example, they had more time, wanted to take advantage of new opportunities or they needed money due to being laid off. Whatever the reason, if you’ve recently started a new business, or you’re contemplating starting one, be aware of the tax implications.
As you know, before you even open the doors in a start-up business, you generally have to spend a lot of money. You may have to train workers and pay for rent, utilities, marketing and more.
Entrepreneurs are often unaware that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be deducted right away. Keep in mind that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.
Essential tax points
When starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these factors in mind:
Types of expenses
Start-up expenses generally include all expenses that are incurred to:
To be eligible for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example would be the money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.
To qualify as an “organization expense,” the outlay must be related to the creation of a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing the new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.
An important decision
Time may be of the essence if you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct for this year. You need to decide whether to take the election described above. Recordkeeping is important. Contact us about your business start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new venture.
The IRS announced it is opening the 2021 individual income tax return filing season on January 24. (Business returns are already being accepted.) Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the April deadline (or you file for an extension until October), consider filing earlier this year. Why? You can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft — and there may be other benefits, too.
How tax identity theft occurs
In a tax identity theft scheme, a thief uses another individual’s personal information to file a bogus tax return early in the filing season and claim a fraudulent refund.
The actual taxpayer discovers the fraud when he or she files a return and is told by the IRS that it is being rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. While the taxpayer should ultimately be able to prove that his or her return is the legitimate one, tax identity theft can be a hassle to straighten out and significantly delay a refund.
Filing early may be your best defense: If you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a potential thief that will be rejected — not yours.
Note: You can still get your individual tax return prepared by us before January 24 if you have all the required documents. But processing of the return will begin after IRS systems open on that date.
Your W-2s and 1099s
To file your tax return, you need all of your W-2s and 1099s. January 31 is the deadline for employers to issue 2021 W-2 forms to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue Form 1099s to recipients for any 2021 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).
If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by February 1, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the IRS for help.
Other benefits of filing early
In addition to protecting yourself from tax identity theft, another advantage of early filing is that, if you’re getting a refund, you’ll get it sooner. The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within 21 days. However, the IRS has been experiencing delays during the pandemic in processing some returns. Keep in mind that the time to receive a refund is typically shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account.
Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen, returned to the IRS as undeliverable or caught in mail delays.
If you were eligible for an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) or advance Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments, and you didn’t receive them or you didn’t receive the full amount due, filing early will help you to receive the money sooner. In 2021, the third round of EIPs were paid by the federal government to eligible individuals to help mitigate the financial effects of COVID-19. Advance CTC payments were made monthly in 2021 to eligible families from July through December. EIP and CTC payments due that weren’t made to eligible taxpayers can be claimed on your 2021 return.
We can help
Contact us If you have questions or would like an appointment to prepare your tax return. We can help you ensure you file an accurate return that takes advantage of all of the breaks available to you.
Many tax limits that affect businesses are annually indexed for inflation, and a number of them have increased for 2022. Here’s a rundown of those that may be important to you and your business.
Social Security tax
The amount of an employee’s earnings that is subject to Social Security tax is capped for 2022 at $147,000 (up from $142,800 in 2021).
In 2022 and 2021, the deduction for eligible business-related food and beverage expenses provided by a restaurant is 100% (up from 50% in 2020).
Other employee benefits
These are only some of the tax limits that may affect your business and additional rules may apply. Contact us if you have questions.
While Congress didn’t pass the Build Back Better Act in 2021, there are still tax changes that may affect your tax situation for this year. That’s because some tax figures are adjusted annually for inflation.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably more concerned about your 2021 tax bill right now than you are about your 2022 tax situation. That’s understandable because your 2021 individual tax return is generally due to be filed by April 18 (unless you file an extension).
However, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with tax amounts that may have changed for 2022. Below are some Q&As about tax amounts for this year.
I have a 401(k) plan through my job. How much can I contribute to it?
For 2022, you can contribute up to $20,500 (up from $19,500 in 2021) to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. You can make an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution if you’re age 50 or older.
How much can I contribute to an IRA for 2022?
If you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,000 a year to a traditional or Roth IRA, or up to 100% of your earned income. If you’re 50 or older, you can make another $1,000 “catch-up” contribution. (These amounts were the same for 2021.)
I sometimes hire a babysitter and a cleaning person. Do I have to withhold and pay FICA tax on the amounts I pay them?
In 2022, the threshold when a domestic employer must withhold and pay FICA for babysitters, house cleaners, etc., is $2,400 (up from $2,300 in 2021).
How much do I have to earn in 2022 before I can stop paying Social Security on my salary?
The Social Security tax wage base is $147,000 for this year (up from $142,800 in 2021). That means that you don’t owe Social Security tax on amounts earned above that. (You must pay Medicare tax on all amounts that you earn.)
I didn’t qualify to itemize deductions on my last tax return. Will I qualify for 2022?
A 2017 tax law eliminated the tax benefit of itemizing deductions for many people by increasing the standard deduction and reducing or eliminating various deductions. For 2022, the standard deduction amount is $25,900 for married couples filing jointly (up from $25,100). For single filers, the amount is $12,950 (up from $12,550) and for heads of households, it’s $19,400 (up from $18,800). If your itemized deductions (such as mortgage interest) are less than the applicable standard deduction amount, you won’t itemize.
If I don’t itemize, can I claim charitable deductions on my 2022 return?
Generally, taxpayers who claim the standard deduction on their federal tax returns can’t deduct charitable donations. But thanks to two COVID-19-relief laws, non-itemizers could claim a limited charitable contribution deduction for the past two years (for 2021, this deduction is $300 for single taxpayers and $600 for married couples filing jointly). Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to extend this tax break, it has expired for 2022.
How much can I give to one person without triggering a gift tax return in 2022?
The annual gift exclusion for 2022 is $16,000 (up from $15,000 in 2021). This amount is only adjusted in $1,000 increments, so it typically only increases every few years.
More to your tax picture
These are only some of the tax amounts that may apply to you. Contact us for more information about your tax situation, or if you have questions.
If you’re an employer with a business where tipping is customary for providing food and beverages, you may qualify for a federal tax credit involving the Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes that you pay on your employees’ tip income.
Basics of the credit
The FICA credit applies with respect to tips that your employees receive from customers in connection with the provision of food or beverages, regardless of whether the food or beverages are for consumption on or off the premises. Although these tips are paid by customers, they’re treated for FICA tax purposes as if you paid them to your employees. Your employees are required to report their tips to you. You must withhold and remit the employee’s share of FICA taxes, and you must also pay the employer’s share of those taxes.
You claim the credit as part of the general business credit. It’s equal to the employer’s share of FICA taxes paid on tip income in excess of what’s needed to bring your employee’s wages up to $5.15 per hour. In other words, no credit is available to the extent the tip income just brings the employee up to the $5.15-per-hour level, calculated monthly. If you pay each employee at least $5.15 an hour (excluding tips), you don’t have to be concerned with this calculation.
Note: A 2007 tax law froze the per-hour amount at $5.15, which was the amount of the federal minimum wage at that time. The minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour but the amount for credit computation purposes remains $5.15.
An example to illustrate
Example: Let’s say a waiter works at your restaurant. He’s paid $2 an hour plus tips. During the month, he works 160 hours for $320 and receives $2,000 in cash tips which he reports to you.
The waiter’s $2-an-hour rate is below the $5.15 rate by $3.15 an hour. Thus, for the 160 hours worked, he is below the $5.15 rate by $504 (160 times $3.15). For the waiter, therefore, the first $504 of tip income just brings him up to the minimum rate. The rest of the tip income is $1,496 ($2,000 minus $504). The waiter’s employer pays FICA taxes at the rate of 7.65% for him. Therefore, the employer’s credit is $114.44 for the month: $1,496 times 7.65%.
While the employer’s share of FICA taxes is generally deductible, the FICA taxes paid with respect to tip income used to determine the credit can’t be deducted, because that would amount to a double benefit. However, you can elect not to take the credit, in which case you can claim the deduction.
Claim your credit
If your business pays FICA taxes on tip income paid to your employees, the tip tax credit may be valuable to you. Other rules may apply. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
The IRS recently announced that the amount individuals can contribute to their 401(k) plans will increase in 2022. The tax agency has also announced other cost‑of‑living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and retirement-related items for tax year 2022. Let’s look at some highlights.
First and foremost, the contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans, as well as the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, will increase to $20,500. That’s up from $19,500 in 2020 and 2021.
The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in the plans mentioned remains unchanged at $6,500. Therefore, participants in the plans mentioned who are 50 and older can contribute up to $27,000, starting in 2022.
The amount individuals can contribute to their Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLEs) will increase from $13,500 to $14,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in SIMPLEs will stay $3,000.
The limit on annual contributions to an IRA will remain unchanged at $6,000 next year. The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and over isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment, so it will remain $1,000. However, the income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional IRAs and to contribute to Roth IRAs will increase for 2022.
Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. However, if either the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse was covered by an employer’s retirement plan during the year, the deduction may be reduced (phased out) or eliminated. If neither the taxpayer nor the spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phaseouts of the deduction don’t apply. Here are the phaseout ranges for 2022:
The range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA will increase to $129,000 to $144,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $125,000 to $140,000. For married couples filing jointly, the range rises to $204,000 to $214,000, up from $198,000 to $208,000. And the range for a married individual filing separately who contributes to a Roth IRA isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment. It remains $0 to $10,000.
That’s what’s up
Employers can encourage participation in their plans and help their employees save for retirement by communicating contribution limit changes every year. Make sure your workers know what’s up. And for more information on the tax impact of a retirement plan you’re either administering or considering, please contact us.
You may pay out a bundle in out-of-pocket medical costs each year. But can you deduct them on your tax return? It’s possible but not easy. Medical expenses can be claimed as a deduction only to the extent your unreimbursed costs exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Plus, medical expenses are deductible only if you itemize, which means that your itemized deductions must exceed your standard deduction.
Qualifying costs include many items other than hospital and doctor bills. Here are some items to take into account in determining a possible deduction:
Insurance premiums. The cost of health insurance is a medical expense that can total thousands of dollars a year. Even if your employer provides you with coverage, you can deduct the portion of the premiums you pay. Long-term care insurance premiums also qualify, subject to dollar limits based on age.
Transportation. The cost of getting to and from medical treatment is an eligible expense. This includes taxi fares, public transportation or using your own car. Car costs can be calculated at 18 cents a mile for miles driven in 2022 (up from 16 cents in 2021), plus tolls and parking. Alternatively, you can deduct your actual costs, including gas and oil, but not general costs such as insurance, depreciation or maintenance.
Therapists and nurses. Services provided by individuals other than physicians can qualify if they relate to a medical condition and aren’t for general health. For example, the cost of physical therapy after knee surgery would qualify, but the costs of a personal trainer to tone you up wouldn’t. Also qualifying are amounts paid to a psychologist for medical care and certain long-term care services required by chronically ill individuals.
Eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental work and prescriptions. Deductible expenses include the cost of glasses, contacts, hearing aids and most dental work. Purely cosmetic expenses (such as tooth whitening) don’t qualify, but certain medically necessary cosmetic surgery is deductible. Prescription drugs qualify, but nonprescription drugs such as aspirin don’t even if a physician recommends them. Neither do amounts paid for treatments that are illegal under federal law (such as marijuana), even if permitted under state law.
Smoking-cessation programs. Amounts paid to participate in a smoking-cessation program and for prescribed drugs designed to alleviate nicotine withdrawal are deductible expenses. However, nonprescription gum and certain nicotine patches aren’t.
Weight-loss programs. A weight-loss program is a deductible expense if undertaken as treatment for a disease diagnosed by a physician. This can be obesity or another disease, such as hypertension, for which a doctor directs you to lose weight. It’s a good idea to get a written diagnosis. Deductible expenses include fees paid to join a program and attend meetings. However, the cost of low-calorie food that you eat in place of a regular diet isn’t deductible.
Dependents and others. You can deduct the medical expenses you pay for dependents, such as your children. Additionally, you may be able to deduct medical costs you pay for an individual, such as a parent or grandparent, who would qualify as your dependent except that he or she has too much gross income or files jointly. In most cases, the medical costs of a child of divorced parents can be claimed by the parent who pays them.
In summation, medical costs are fairly broadly defined for deduction purposes. We can assess if you qualify for a deduction or answer any questions you have.
Do you want to sell commercial or investment real estate that has appreciated significantly? One way to defer a tax bill on the gain is with a Section 1031 “like-kind” exchange where you exchange the property rather than sell it. With real estate prices up in some markets (and higher resulting tax bills), the like-kind exchange strategy may be attractive.
A like-kind exchange is any exchange of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business (relinquished property) for like-kind investment, trade or business real property (replacement property).
For these purposes, like-kind is broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale.
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax-deferred Section 1031 treatment is no longer allowed for exchanges of personal property — such as equipment and certain personal property building components — that are completed after December 31, 2017.
If you’re unsure if the property involved in your exchange is eligible for like-kind treatment, please contact us to discuss the matter.
Assuming the exchange qualifies, here’s how the tax rules work. If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still must report it on Form 8824, “Like-Kind Exchanges.”
Frequently, however, the properties aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other property is tossed into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.
An example to illustrate
Let’s say you exchange land (business property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (business property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain. That’s the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in your new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000: your original basis in the relinquished property you gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.
Note that no matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.
If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to the person giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).
Great tax-deferral vehicle
Like-kind exchanges can be a great tax-deferred way to dispose of investment, trade or business real property. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss the strategy further.
Business owners, year end is officially here. It may even be over by the time you read this. (If so, Happy New Year!) In any case, the end of one year and the beginning of another is always an optimal time to look back on the preceding 12 calendar months and ask a deceptively simple question: How’d we do?
Large companies tend to have thoroughly documented strategic plans in place, some stretching years into the future, that include various metrics for measuring whether they’ve achieved the growth intended. For them, reviewing a calendar year’s success in terms of strategic planning is relatively easy. They mostly just crunch the numbers.
For small to midsize businesses, the strategic planning process may be a little more informal and less precise. Yet even if your strategic plan isn’t a detailed document replete with spreadsheets and pie charts, you can still review actual performance against it and use this assessment to look ahead to 2022.
Areas that inform
Generally, there are three areas of most businesses that inform the success of a strategic plan. They are:
HR. Your people are your most valuable asset. So, how does your employee turnover rate for 2021 compare with previous years? High employee turnover could be a sign of underlying problems, such as poor training, lax management or low employee morale.
Much has been written this year about “the Great Resignation,” the trend of employees leaving their jobs for various reasons. How has it affected your company? Has it stymied your efforts to meet strategic goals? You may need to make hiring and retention efforts a focal point of your 2022 strategic plan.
Sales and marketing. Did you meet your monthly goals for new sales, in terms of both revenue and number of new customers? Did you generate an adequate return on investment (ROI) for your marketing dollars?
If you can’t clearly answer the latter question, enhance your tracking of existing marketing efforts so you can better gauge ROI going forward. And set reasonable but growth-oriented sales goals for 2022 that will make or keep your business a competitive force to be reckoned with.
Production. If you manufacture products, what was your unit reject rate over the past year? Or, if yours is a service business, how satisfied were your customers with the level of service provided?
Again, if you’re not sure, you may need to establish or enhance your methods of tracking product quality or measuring customer satisfaction to meet this year’s strategic goals. Many companies now use customer satisfaction scores or a customer satisfaction index to establish objectives and benchmark their success.
Flexibility and the right adjustments
By now, you should probably have at least the framework of a 2022 strategic plan in place. However, if you’re not that far along, don’t worry. Strategic plans are best when they’re flexible and open to adjustment as economic conditions and buying trends change.
This is particularly true when the year ahead looks as uncertain as this one, given the continuing impact of the pandemic. We can help you review your 2021 financials and use the right metrics to develop a cohesive, realistic strategic plan for the next 12 months.
The number of people engaged in the “gig” or sharing economy has grown in recent years. In an August 2021 survey, the Pew Research Center found that 16% of Americans have earned money at some time through online gig platforms. This includes providing car rides, shopping for groceries, walking dogs, performing household tasks, running errands and making deliveries from a restaurant or store.
There are tax consequences for the people who perform these jobs. Basically, if you receive income from an online platform offering goods and services, it’s generally taxable. That’s true even if the income comes from a side job and even if you don’t receive an income statement reporting the amount of money you made.
Traits of gig workers
Gig workers are those who are independent contractors and conduct their jobs through online platforms. Examples include Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Angi, Instacart and DoorDash.
Unlike traditional employees, independent contractors don’t receive benefits associated with employment or employer-sponsored health insurance. They also aren’t covered by the minimum wage or other protections of federal laws, aren’t part of states’ unemployment insurance systems, and are on their own when it comes to training, retirement savings and taxes.
If you’re part of the gig or sharing economy, here are some considerations.
It’s critical to keep good records tracking income and expenses in case you are audited by the IRS or a state/local tax authority. Contact us if you have questions about your tax obligations as a gig worker or the deductions you can claim. You don’t want to get an expensive surprise when you file your tax return next year.
After two years of no increases, the optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up in 2022 by 2.5 cents per mile. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 58.5 cents (up from 56 cents for 2021).
The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline. On December 21, 2021, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.29, compared with $2.22 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.
Don’t want to keep track of actual expenses?
Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. This includes gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.
The cents-per-mile rate is beneficial if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. With this method, you don’t have to account for all your actual expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.
Using the cents-per-mile rate is also popular with businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles a great deal for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.
If you do use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, the reimbursements could be considered taxable wages to the employees.
How is the rate calculated?
The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repair and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the cents-per-mile rate midyear.
When can the cents-per-mile method not be used?
There are some cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. It partly depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it depends on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2022 — or claiming 2021 expenses on your 2021 income tax return.
Year-end is a good time to plan to save taxes by carefully structuring your capital gains and losses.
Consider some possibilities if you have losses on certain investments to date. For example, suppose you lost money this year on some stock and have other stock that has appreciated. Consider selling appreciated assets before December 31 (if you think their value has peaked) and offsetting gains with losses.
Long-term capital losses offset long-term capital gains before they offset short-term capital gains. Similarly, short-term capital losses offset short-term capital gains before they offset long-term capital gains. You may use up to $3,000 ($1,500 for married filing separately) of total capital losses in excess of total capital gains as a deduction against ordinary income in computing your adjusted gross income (AGI).
Individuals are subject to federal tax at a rate as high as 37% on short-term capital gains and ordinary income. But long-term capital gains on most investments receive favorable treatment. They’re taxed at rates ranging from zero to 20% depending on your taxable income (inclusive of the gains). High-income taxpayers pay an additional 3.8% net investment income tax on their net gain and certain other investment income.
This means you should try to avoid having long-term capital losses offset long-term capital gains since those losses will be more valuable if they’re used to offset short-term capital gains or up to $3,000 per year of ordinary income. This requires making sure that the long-term capital losses aren’t taken in the same year as the long-term capital gains.
However, this isn’t just a tax issue. Investment factors must also be considered. You don’t want to defer recognizing gain until next year if there’s too much risk that the investment’s value will decline before it can be sold. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to risk increasing a loss on investments you expect to decline in value by deferring a sale until the following year.
To the extent that taking long-term capital losses in a different year than long-term capital gains is consistent with good investment planning, take steps to prevent those losses from offsetting those gains.
If you’ve yet to realize net capital losses for 2021 but expect to realize net capital losses next year well in excess of the $3,000 ceiling, consider accelerating some excess losses into this year. The losses can offset current gains and up to $3,000 of any excess loss will become deductible against ordinary income this year.
For the reasons outlined above, paper losses or gains on stocks may be worth recognizing this year. But suppose the stock is also an investment worth holding for the long term. You can’t sell stock to establish a tax loss and buy it back the next day. The “wash sale” rule precludes recognition of a loss where substantially identical securities are bought and sold within a 61-day period (30 days before or 30 days after the date of sale).
However, you may be able to realize a tax loss by:
Careful handling of capital gains and losses can save tax. Contact us if you have questions about these strategies.
Awards and settlements are routinely provided for a variety of reasons. For example, a person could receive compensatory and punitive damage payments for personal injury, discrimination or harassment. Some of this money is taxed by the federal government, and perhaps state governments. Hopefully, you’ll never need to know how payments for personal injuries are taxed. But here are the basic rules — just in case you or a loved one does need to understand them.
Under tax law, individuals are permitted to exclude from gross income damages that are received on account of a personal physical injury or a physical sickness. It doesn’t matter if the compensation is from a court-ordered award or an out-of-court settlement, and it makes no difference if it’s paid in a lump sum or installments.
For purposes of this exclusion, emotional distress is not considered a physical injury or physical sickness. So, for example, an award under state law that’s meant to compensate for emotional distress caused by age discrimination or harassment would have to be included in gross income. However, if you require medical care for treatment of the consequences of emotional distress, then the amount of damages not exceeding those expenses would be excludable from gross income.
Punitive damages for any personal injury claim, whether or not physical, aren’t excludable from gross income unless awarded under certain state wrongful death statutes that provide for only punitive damages.
The law doesn’t consider back pay and liquidated damages received under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to be paid in compensation for personal injuries. Thus, an award for back pay and liquidated damages under the ADEA must be included in gross income.
You can’t deduct attorney’s fees incurred to collect a tax-free award or settlement for physical injury or sickness. However, to a limited extent, attorney’s fees (whether contingent or non-contingent) or court costs paid by, or on behalf of, a taxpayer in connection with an action involving a claim under the ADEA, are deductible from gross income to determine adjusted gross income. Specifically, the amount of this above-the-line deduction is limited to the amount includible in your gross income for the tax year on account of a judgment or settlement resulting from the ADEA claim, whether by suit or agreement, and whether as lump sum or periodic payments.
Best possible tax result
Keep in mind that while you want the best tax result possible from any settlement, lawsuit or discrimination action you’re considering, non-tax legal factors together with the tax factors will determine the amount of your after-tax recovery. Consult with your attorney as to the best way to proceed, and we can provide any tax guidance that you may need.
Don’t let the holiday rush keep you from considering some important steps to reduce your 2021 tax liability. You still have time to execute a few strategies.
Thinking about buying new or used equipment, machinery or office equipment in the new year? Buy them and place them in service by December 31, and you can deduct 100% of the cost as bonus depreciation. Contact us for details on the 100% bonus depreciation break and exactly what types of assets qualify.
Bonus depreciation is also available for certain building improvements. Before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), bonus depreciation was available for two types of real property: land improvements other than buildings (for example fencing and parking lots), and “qualified improvement property,” a broad category of internal improvements made to nonresidential buildings after the buildings are placed in service. The TCJA inadvertently eliminated bonus depreciation for qualified improvement property. However, the 2020 CARES Act made a retroactive technical correction to the TCJA. The correction makes qualified improvement property placed in service after December 31, 2017, eligible for bonus depreciation.
Keep in mind that 100% bonus depreciation has reduced the importance of Section 179 expensing. If you’re a small business, you’ve probably benefited from Sec. 179. It’s an elective benefit that, subject to dollar limits, allows an immediate deduction of the cost of equipment, machinery, “off-the-shelf” computer software and some building improvements. Sec. 179 expensing was enhanced by the TCJA, but the availability of 100% bonus depreciation is economically equivalent and thus has greatly reduced the cases in which Sec. 179 expensing is useful.
Write off a heavy vehicle
The 100% bonus depreciation deal can have a major tax-saving impact on first-year depreciation deductions for new or used heavy vehicles used over 50% for business. That’s because heavy SUVs, pickups and vans are treated for federal income tax purposes as transportation equipment. In turn, that means they qualify for 100% bonus depreciation.
Specifically, 100% bonus depreciation is available when the SUV, pickup or van has a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds. You can verify a vehicle’s weight by looking at the manufacturer’s label, which is usually found on the inside edge of the driver’s side door. If you’re considering buying an eligible vehicle, placing one in service before year end could deliver a significant write-off on this year’s return.
Time deductions and income
If your business operates on a cash basis, you can significantly affect your amount of taxable income by accelerating your deductions into 2021 and deferring income into 2022 (assuming you expect to be taxed at the same or a lower rate next year).
For example, you could put recurring expenses normally paid early in the year on your credit card before January 1 — that way, you can claim the deduction for 2021 even though you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2022. In certain circumstances, you also can prepay some expenses, such as rent or insurance and claim them in 2021.
As for income, wait until close to year-end to send out invoices to customers with reliable payment histories. Accrual-basis businesses can take a similar approach, holding off on the delivery of goods and services until next year.
Consider all angles
Bear in mind that some of these tactics could adversely impact other factors affecting your tax liability, such as the qualified business income deduction. Contact us to make the most of your tax planning opportunities.