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.