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Does your business barter? Here are some facts you should know

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:
 
  • A computer consultant agrees to exchange services with an advertising agency.
  • A plumber does repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services.

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,
 
  • If a construction firm does work for a retail business in exchange for unsold inventory, it will have income equal to the fair market value of the inventory.
  • If an architectural firm does work for a corporation in exchange for shares of the corporation’s stock, it will have income equal to the fair market value of the stock.

Barter clubs

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.

3/8/22
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There still may be time to cut your tax bill with an IRA

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:
  • You (and your spouse) aren’t an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or
  • You (or your spouse) are an active participant in an employer plan, but your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary from year-to-year by filing status.
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.
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Important tax aspects of operating your business as a sole proprietor

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.

3/1/22
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Are you ready for the 2021 gift tax return deadline?

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:
  • That exceeded the $15,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion for 2021 (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $30,000 annual exclusion for 2021,
  • That exceeded the $159,000 annual exclusion in 2021 for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($75,000) into 2021,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.
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:
  • Annual exclusion gifts,
  • Present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse,
  • Educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or
  • Political or charitable contributions.
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.
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Can you deduct the costs of a spouse on a business trip?

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.

A spouse-employee

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.

2/22/22
Be sure to stay current with tax deadlines and ever changing tax information. 

Click here for additional tax resources.
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Married couples filing separate tax returns: Why would they do it?

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).

Circumstances matter
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.
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Making withdrawals from your closely held corporation that aren’t taxed as dividends

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.

Five alternatives

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.

2/15/22
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Did you give to charity in 2021? Make sure you have substantiation

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.

The requirements

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: The date you file your tax return, or The extended due date of your return.
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 requirements

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.
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The Ins and Outs of IRAs

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.

Traditional IRAs

You can make an annual deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:
  • You (and your spouse) aren’t active participants in employer-sponsored retirement plans, or
  • You (or your spouse) are active participants in an employer plan, and your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary annually by filing status.
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).

Contribution amounts

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).

Roth IRAs

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:
  • After a five-year period that begins with the first year for which you made a contribution to a Roth, and
  • Once you reach age 59½, or upon death or disability, or for first-time home-buyer expenses of you, your spouse, child, grandchild, or ancestor (up to $10,000 lifetime).
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.
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Keeping meticulous records is the key to tax deductions and painless IRS audits

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.

2/1/22
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Help safeguard your personal information by filing your 2021 tax return early

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.
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Numerous tax limits affecting businesses have increased for 2022

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).

Deductions
 
  • Standard business mileage rate, per mile: 58.5 cents (up from 56 cents in 2021)
  • Section 179 expensing:
    • Limit: $1.08 million (up from $1.05 million in 2021)
    • Phaseout: $2.7 million (up from $2.62 million)
  • Income-based phase-out for certain limits on the Sec. 199A qualified business income deduction begins at:
    • Married filing jointly: $340,100 (up from $329,800 in 2021)
    • Single filers: $170,050 (up from $164,900)

Business meals

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).

Retirement plans
 
  • Employee contributions to 401(k) plans: $20,500 (up from $19,500 in 2021)
  • Catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans: $6,500 (unchanged)
  • Employee contributions to SIMPLEs: $14,000 (up from $13,500)
  • Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs: $3,000 (unchanged)
  • Combined employer/employee contributions to defined contribution plans: $61,000 (up from $58,000)
  • Maximum compensation used to determine contributions: $305,000 (up from $290,000)
  • Annual limit for defined benefit plans: $245,000 (up from $230,000)
  • Compensation defining a highly compensated employee: $135,000 (up from $130,000)
  • Compensation defining a “key” employee: $200,000 (up from $185,000) 

Other employee benefits
 
  • Qualified transportation fringe-benefits employee income exclusion: $280 per month (up from $270 per month)
  • Health Savings Account contributions:
    • Individual coverage: $3,650 (up from $3,600)
    • Family coverage: $7,300 (up from $7,200)
    • Catch-up contribution: $1,000 (unchanged)
  • Health care Flexible Spending Account contributions: $2,850 (up from $2,750)

These are only some of the tax limits that may affect your business and additional rules may apply. Contact us if you have questions.

1/18/22
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How will revised tax limits affect your 2022 taxes?

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.

© 2022
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Defer tax with a like-kind exchange

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.

Important change

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.

1/4/22
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Providing a company car? Here’s how taxes are handled

The use of a company vehicle is a valuable fringe benefit for owners and employees of small businesses. This perk results in tax deductions for the employer as well as tax breaks for the owners and employees using the cars. (And of course, they get the nontax benefit of getting a company car.) Plus, current tax law and IRS rules make the benefit even better than it was in the past.

The rules in action

Let’s say you’re the owner-employee of a corporation that’s going to provide you with a company car. You need the car to visit customers, meet with vendors and check on suppliers. You expect to drive the car 8,500 miles a year for business. You also expect to use the car for about 7,000 miles of personal driving, including commuting, running errands and weekend trips. Therefore, your usage of the vehicle will be approximately 55% for business and 45% for personal purposes. You want a nice car to reflect positively on your business, so the corporation buys a new $55,000 luxury sedan.

Your cost for personal use of the vehicle is equal to the tax you pay on the fringe benefit value of your 45% personal mileage. By contrast, if you bought the car yourself to be able to drive the personal miles, you’d be out-of-pocket for the entire purchase cost of the car.

Your personal use will be treated as fringe benefit income. For tax purposes, your corporation will treat the car much the same way it would any other business asset, subject to depreciation deduction restrictions if the auto is purchased. Out-of-pocket expenses related to the car (including insurance, gas, oil and maintenance) are deductible, including the portion that relates to your personal use. If the corporation finances the car, the interest it pays on the loan would be deductible as a business expense (unless the business is subject to the business interest expense deduction limitation under the tax code).

In contrast, if you bought the auto yourself, you wouldn’t be entitled to any deductions. Your outlays for the business-related portion of your driving would be unreimbursed employee business expenses that are nondeductible from 2018 to 2025 due to the suspension of miscellaneous itemized deductions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And if you financed the car yourself, the interest payments would be nondeductible.

And finally, the purchase of the car by your corporation will have no effect on your credit rating.

Necessary paperwork

Providing an auto for an owner’s or key employee’s business and personal use comes with complications and paperwork. Personal use will have to be tracked and valued under the fringe benefit tax rules and treated as income. This article only explains the basics.

Despite the necessary valuation and paperwork, a company-provided car is still a valuable fringe benefit for business owners and key employees. It can provide them with the use of a vehicle at a low tax cost while generating tax deductions for their businesses. We can help you stay in compliance with the rules and explain more about this prized perk.

12/21/21
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Stock market investors: Year-end tax strategies to consider

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:
  • Selling the original holding and then buying the same securities at least 31 days later. The risk is interim upward price movement.
  • Buying more of the same stock, then selling the original holding at least 31 days later. The risk is interim downward price movement.
  • Selling the original holding and buying similar securities in different companies in the same line of business. This trades on the prospects of the industry, rather than the particular stock.
  • Selling an original holding of mutual fund shares and buying shares in another fund with a similar investment strategy.
Careful handling of capital gains and losses can save tax. Contact us if you have questions about these strategies.

© 2021
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With year-end approaching, 3 ideas that may help cut your tax bill

If you’re starting to worry about your 2021 tax bill, there’s good news — you may still have time to reduce your liability. Here are three quick strategies that may help you trim your taxes before year-end.

1. Accelerate deductions/defer income. Certain tax deductions are claimed for the year of payment, such as the mortgage interest deduction. So, if you make your January 2022 payment in December, you can deduct the interest portion on your 2021 tax return (assuming you itemize).

Pushing income into the new year also will reduce your taxable income. If you’re expecting a bonus at work, for example, and you don’t want the income this year, ask if your employer can hold off on paying it until January. If you’re self-employed, you can delay your invoices until late in December to divert the revenue to 2022.

You shouldn’t pursue this approach if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year. Also, if you’re eligible for the qualified business income deduction for pass-through entities, you might reduce the amount of that deduction if you reduce your income.

2. Maximize your retirement contributions. What could be better than paying yourself? Federal tax law encourages individual taxpayers to make the maximum allowable contributions for the year to their retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs and SEP plans, 401(k)s and deferred annuities.

For 2021, you generally can contribute as much as $19,500 to 401(k)s and $6,000 for traditional IRAs. Self-employed individuals can contribute up to 25% of your net income (but no more than $58,000) to a SEP IRA.

3. Harvest your investment losses. Losing money on your investments has a bit of an upside — it gives you the opportunity to offset taxable gains. If you sell underperforming investments before the end of the year, you can offset gains realized this year on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

If you have more losses than gains, you generally can apply up to $3,000 of the excess to reduce your ordinary income. Any remaining losses are carried forward to future tax years.

There’s still time

The ideas described above are only a few of the strategies that still may be available. Contact us if you have questions about these or other methods for minimizing your tax liability for 2021.

© 2021
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Small businesses: There still may be time to cut your 2021 taxes

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.

Purchase assets

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.

11/30/21
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Businesses can show appreciation — and gain tax breaks — with holiday gifts and parties

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holiday season will soon be here. At this time of year, your business may want to show its gratitude to employees and customers by giving them gifts or hosting holiday parties again after a year of forgoing them due to the pandemic. It’s a good time to brush up on the tax rules associated with these expenses. Are they tax deductible by your business and is the value taxable to the recipients?

Gifts to customers

If you give gifts to customers and clients, they’re deductible up to $25 per recipient per year. For purposes of the $25 limit, you don’t need to include “incidental” costs that don’t substantially add to the gift’s value. These costs include engraving, gift wrapping, packaging and shipping. Also excluded from the $25 limit is branded marketing items — such as those imprinted with your company’s name and logo — provided they’re widely distributed and cost less than $4.

The $25 limit is for gifts to individuals. There’s no set limit on gifts to a company (for example, a gift basket for all team members of a customer to share) as long as the costs are “reasonable.”

Gifts to employees

In general, anything of value that you transfer to an employee is included in his or her taxable income (and, therefore, subject to income and payroll taxes) and deductible by your business. But there’s an exception for noncash gifts that constitute a “de minimis” fringe benefit.

These are items that are small in value and given infrequently that are administratively impracticable to account for. Common examples include holiday turkeys, hams, gift baskets, occasional sports or theater tickets (but not season tickets) and other low-cost merchandise.

De minimis fringe benefits aren’t included in an employee’s taxable income yet they’re still deductible by your business. Unlike gifts to customers, there’s no specific dollar threshold for de minimis gifts. However, many businesses use an informal cutoff of $75.

Cash gifts — as well as cash equivalents, such as gift cards — are included in an employee’s income and subject to payroll tax withholding regardless of how small and infrequent.

Throw a holiday party

In general, holiday parties are fully deductible (and excludible from recipients’ income). And for calendar years 2021 and 2022, a COVID-19 relief law provides a temporary 100% deduction for expenses of food or beverages “provided by” a restaurant to your workplace. Previously, these expenses were only 50% deductible. Entertainment expenses are still not deductible.

The use of the words “provided by” a restaurant clarifies that the tax break for 2021 and 2022 isn’t limited to meals eaten on a restaurant’s premises. Takeout and delivery meals from a restaurant are also generally 100% deductible. So you can treat your on-premises staff to some holiday meals this year and get a full deduction.

Show your holiday spirit

Contact us if you have questions about the tax implications of giving holiday gifts or throwing a holiday party.

11/23/21
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Feeling generous at year end? Strategies for donating to charity or gifting to loved ones 

As we approach the holidays, many people plan to donate to their favorite charities or give money or assets to their loved ones. Here are the basic tax rules involved in these transactions.

Donating to charity

Normally, if you take the standard deduction and don’t itemize, you can’t claim a deduction for charitable contributions. But for 2021 under a COVID-19 relief law, you’re allowed to claim a limited deduction on your tax return for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. You can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made during this year. This deduction increases to $600 for a married couple filing jointly in 2021.

What if you want to give gifts of investments to your favorite charities? There are a couple of points to keep in mind.

First, don’t give away investments in taxable brokerage accounts that are currently worth less than what you paid for them. Instead, sell the shares and claim the resulting capital loss on your tax return. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to charity. In addition, if you itemize, you can claim a full tax-saving charitable deduction.

The second point applies to securities that have appreciated in value. These should be donated directly to charity. The reason: If you itemize, donations of publicly traded shares that you’ve owned for over a year result in charitable deductions equal to the full current market value of the shares at the time the gift is made. In addition, if you donate appreciated stock, you escape any capital gains tax on those shares. Meanwhile, the tax-exempt charity can sell the donated shares without owing any federal income tax.

Donating from your IRA

IRA owners and beneficiaries who’ve reached age 70½ are allowed to make cash donations of up to $100,000 a year to qualified charities directly out of their IRAs. You don’t owe income tax on these qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), but you also don’t receive an itemized charitable contribution deduction. Contact your tax advisor if you’re interested in this type of gift.

Gifting assets to family and other loved ones

The principles for tax-smart gifts to charities also apply to gifts to relatives. That is, you should sell investments that are currently worth less than what you paid for them and claim the resulting tax-saving capital losses. Then, give the cash proceeds from the sale to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones.

Likewise, you should give appreciated stock directly to those to whom you want to give gifts. When they sell the shares, they’ll pay a lower tax rate than you would if they’re in a lower tax bracket.

In 2021, the amount you can give to one person without gift tax implications is $15,000 per recipient. The annual gift exclusion is available to each taxpayer. So if you’re married and make a joint gift with your spouse, the exclusion amount is doubled to $30,000 per recipient for 2021.

Make gifts wisely

Whether you’re giving to charity or loved ones this holiday season (or both), it’s important to understand the tax implications of gifts. Contact us if you have questions about the tax consequences of any gifts you’d like to make.

© 2021
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Many factors are involved when choosing a business entity

Are you planning to launch a business or thinking about changing your business entity? If so, you need to determine which entity will work best for you — a C corporation or a pass-through entity such as a sole-proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or S corporation. There are many factors to consider and proposed federal tax law changes being considered by Congress may affect your decision.

The corporate federal income tax is currently imposed at a flat 21% rate, while the current individual federal income tax rates begin at 10% and go up to 37%. The difference in rates can be mitigated by the qualified business income (QBI) deduction that’s available to eligible pass-through entity owners that are individuals, estates and trusts.

Note that noncorporate taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income above certain levels are subject to an additional 3.8% tax on net investment income.

Organizing a business as a C corporation instead of as a pass-through entity can reduce the current federal income tax on the business’s income. The corporation can still pay reasonable compensation to the shareholders and pay interest on loans from the shareholders. That income will be taxed at higher individual rates, but the overall rate on the corporation’s income can be lower than if the business was operated as a pass-through entity.

Other considerations

Other tax-related factors should also be considered. For example:
 
  • If substantially all the business profits will be distributed to the owners, it may be preferable that the business be operated as a pass-through entity rather than as a C corporation, since the shareholders will be taxed on dividend distributions from the corporation (double taxation). In contrast, owners of a pass-through entity will only be taxed once, at the personal level, on business income. However, the impact of double taxation must be evaluated based on projected income levels for both the business and its owners.
  • If the value of the business’s assets is likely to appreciate, it’s generally preferable to conduct it as a pass-through entity to avoid a corporate tax if the assets are sold or the business is liquidated. Although corporate level tax will be avoided if the corporation’s shares, rather than its assets, are sold, the buyer may insist on a lower price because the tax basis of appreciated business assets cannot be stepped up to reflect the purchase price. That can result in much lower post-purchase depreciation and amortization deductions for the buyer.
  • If the entity is a pass-through entity, the owners’ bases in their interests in the entity are stepped-up by the entity income that’s allocated to them. That can result in less taxable gain for the owners when their interests in the entity are sold.
  • If the business is expected to incur tax losses for a while, consideration should be given to structuring it as a pass-through entity so the owners can deduct the losses against their other income. Conversely, if the owners of the business have insufficient other income or the losses aren’t usable (for example, because they’re limited by the passive loss rules), it may be preferable for the business to be a C corporation, since it’ll be able to offset future income with the losses.
  • If the owners of the business are subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), it may be preferable to organize as a C corporation, since corporations aren’t subject to the AMT. Affected individuals are subject to the AMT at 26% or 28% rates. 

These are only some of the many factors involved in operating a business as a certain type of legal entity. For details about how to proceed in your situation, consult with us.

11/9/21
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Factor in taxes if you’re relocating to another state in retirement

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:
  • Change your mailing address at the post office,
  • Change your address on passports, insurance policies, will or living trust documents, and other important documents,
  • Buy or lease a home in the new state and sell your home in the old state (or rent it out at market rates to an unrelated party),
  • Register to vote, get a driver’s license and register your vehicle in the new state, and
  • Open and use bank accounts in the new state and close accounts in the old one.
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.

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Thinking about participating in your employer’s 401(k) plan? Here’s how it works

Employers offer 401(k) plans for many reasons, including to attract and retain talent. These plans help an employee accumulate a retirement nest egg on a tax-advantaged basis. If you’re thinking about participating in a plan at work, here are some of the features.

Under a 401(k) plan, you have the option of setting aside a certain amount of your wages in a qualified retirement plan. By electing to set cash aside in a 401(k) plan, you’ll reduce your gross income, and defer tax on the amount until the cash (adjusted by earnings) is distributed to you. It will either be distributed from the plan or from an IRA or other plan that you roll your proceeds into after leaving your job.

Tax advantages

Your wages or other compensation will be reduced by the amount of pre-tax contributions that you make — saving you current income taxes. But the amounts will still be subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. If your employer’s plan allows, you may instead make all, or some, contributions on an after-tax basis (these are Roth 401(k) contributions). With Roth 401(k) contributions, the amounts will be subject to current income taxation, but if you leave these funds in the plan for a required time, distributions (including earnings) will be tax-free.

Your elective contributions — either pre-tax or after-tax — are subject to annual IRS limits. For 2021, the maximum amount permitted is $19,500. When you reach age 50, if your employer’s plan allows, you can make additional “catch-up” contributions. For 2021, that additional amount is $6,500. So if you’re 50 or older, the total that you can contribute to all 401(k) plans in 2021 is $26,000. Total employer contributions, including your elective deferrals (but not catch-up contributions), can’t exceed 100% of compensation or, for 2021, $58,000, whichever is less.

Typically, you’ll be permitted to invest the amount of your contributions (and any employer matching or other contributions) among available investment options that your employer has selected. Periodically review your plan investment performance to determine that each investment remains appropriate for your retirement planning goals and your risk specifications.

Getting money out

Another important aspect of these plans is the limitation on distributions while you’re working. First, amounts in the plan attributable to elective contributions aren’t available to you before one of the following events: retirement (or other separation from service), disability, reaching age 59½, hardship, or plan termination. And eligibility rules for a hardship withdrawal are very stringent. A hardship distribution must be necessary to satisfy an immediate and heavy financial need.

As an alternative to taking a hardship or other plan withdrawal while employed, your employer’s 401(k) plan may allow you to receive a plan loan, which you pay back to your account, with interest. Any distribution that you do take can be rolled into another employer’s plan (if that plan permits) or to an IRA. This allows you to continue deferral of tax on the amount rolled over. Taxable distributions are generally subject to 20% federal tax withholding, if not rolled over.

Employers may opt to match contributions up to a certain amount. If your employer matches contributions, you should make sure to contribute enough to receive the full match. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on free money!

These are just the basics of 401(k) plans for employees. For more information, contact your employer. Of course, we can answer any tax questions you may have.

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Employers: The Social Security wage base is increasing in 2022

The Social Security Administration recently announced that the wage base for computing Social Security tax will increase to $147,000 for 2022 (up from $142,800 for 2021). Wages and self-employment income above this threshold aren’t subject to Social Security tax.

Background information

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes two taxes on employers, employees and self-employed workers — one for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance, which is commonly known as the Social Security tax, and the other for Hospital Insurance, which is commonly known as the Medicare tax.

There’s a maximum amount of compensation subject to the Social Security tax, but no maximum for Medicare tax. For 2022, the FICA tax rate for employers is 7.65% — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare (the same as in 2021).

2022 updates

For 2022, an employee will pay:
  • 6.2% Social Security tax on the first $147,000 of wages (6.2% of $147,000 makes the maximum tax $9,114), plus
  • 1.45% Medicare tax on the first $200,000 of wages ($250,000 for joint returns; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing a separate return), plus
  • 2.35% Medicare tax (regular 1.45% Medicare tax plus 0.9% additional Medicare tax) on all wages in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for joint returns; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing a separate return).

For 2022, the self-employment tax imposed on self-employed people is:
 
  • 12.4% OASDI on the first $147,000 of self-employment income, for a maximum tax of $18,228 (12.4% of $147,000); plus
  • 2.90% Medicare tax on the first $200,000 of self-employment income ($250,000 of combined self-employment income on a joint return, $125,000 on a return of a married individual filing separately), plus
  • 3.8% (2.90% regular Medicare tax plus 0.9% additional Medicare tax) on all self-employment income in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 of combined self-employment income on a joint return, $125,000 for married taxpayers filing a separate return).

More than one employer

What happens if an employee works for your business and has a second job? That employee would have taxes withheld from two different employers. Can the employee ask you to stop withholding Social Security tax once he or she reaches the wage base threshold? Unfortunately, no. Each employer must withhold Social Security taxes from the individual’s wages, even if the combined withholding exceeds the maximum amount that can be imposed for the year. Fortunately, the employee will get a credit on his or her tax return for any excess withheld.

We can help 

Contact us if you have questions about payroll tax filing or payments. We can help ensure you stay in compliance.

10/26/21
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You may owe “nanny tax” even if you don’t have a nanny

Have you heard of the “nanny tax?” Even if you don’t employ a nanny, it may apply to you. Hiring a house cleaner, gardener or other household employee (who isn’t an independent contractor) may make you liable for federal income and other taxes. You may also have state tax obligations.

If you employ a household worker, you aren’t required to withhold federal income taxes from pay. But you can choose to withhold if the worker requests it. In that case, ask the worker to fill out a Form W-4. However, you may be required to withhold Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes and to pay federal unemployment (FUTA) tax.

2021 and 2022 thresholds

In 2021, you must withhold and pay FICA taxes if your household worker earns cash wages of $2,300 or more (excluding the value of food and lodging). The Social Security Administration recently announced that this amount would increase to $2,400 in 2022. If you reach the threshold, all the wages (not just the excess) are subject to FICA.

However, if a nanny is under age 18 and childcare isn’t his or her principal occupation, you don’t have to withhold FICA taxes. So, if you have a part-time student babysitter, there’s no FICA tax liability.

Both an employer and a household worker may have FICA tax obligations. As an employer, you’re responsible for withholding your worker’s FICA share. In addition, you must pay a matching amount. FICA tax is divided between Social Security and Medicare. The Social Security tax rate is 6.2% for the employer and 6.2% for the worker (12.4% total). Medicare tax is 1.45% each for the employer and the worker (2.9% total).

If you want, you can pay your worker’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you do, your payments aren’t counted as additional cash wages for Social Security and Medicare purposes. However, your payments are treated as additional income to the worker for federal tax purposes, so you must include them as wages on the W-2 form that you must provide.

You also must pay FUTA tax if you pay $1,000 or more in cash wages (excluding food and lodging) to your worker in any calendar quarter. FUTA tax applies to the first $7,000 of wages paid and is only paid by the employer.

Paperwork and payments

You pay household worker obligations by increasing your quarterly estimated tax payments or increasing withholding from wages, rather than making an annual lump-sum payment.

As an employer of a household worker, you don’t have to file employment tax returns, even if you’re required to withhold or pay tax (unless you own your own business). Instead, employment taxes are reported on your tax return on Schedule H.

When you report the taxes on your return, include your employer identification number (not the same as your Social Security number). You must file Form SS-4 to get one.

However, if you own a business as a sole proprietor, you include the taxes for a household worker on the FUTA and FICA forms (940 and 941) that you file for the business. And you use your sole proprietorship EIN to report the taxes.

Recordkeeping is important

Keep related tax records for at least four years from the later of the due date of the return or the date the tax was paid. Records should include the worker’s name, address, Social Security number, employment dates, dates and amount of wages paid and taxes withheld, and copies of forms filed.

Contact us for assistance or questions about how to comply with these requirements.

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Get your piece of the depreciation pie now with a cost segregation study

If your business is depreciating over a 30-year period the entire cost of constructing the building that houses your operation, you should consider a cost segregation study. It might allow you to accelerate depreciation deductions on certain items, thereby reducing taxes and boosting cash flow. And under current law, the potential benefits of a cost segregation study are now even greater than they were a few years ago due to enhancements to certain depreciation-related tax breaks.

Fundamentals of depreciation

Generally, business buildings have a 39-year depreciation period (27.5 years for residential rental properties). Usually, you depreciate a building’s structural components, including walls, windows, HVAC systems, elevators, plumbing and wiring, along with the building. Personal property — such as equipment, machinery, furniture and fixtures — is eligible for accelerated depreciation, usually over five or seven years. And land improvements, such as fences, outdoor lighting and parking lots, are depreciable over 15 years.

Often, businesses allocate all or most of their buildings’ acquisition or construction costs to real property, overlooking opportunities to allocate costs to shorter-lived personal property or land improvements. In some cases — computers or furniture, for example — the distinction between real and personal property is obvious. But the line between the two is frequently less clear. Items that appear to be “part of a building” may in fact be personal property, like removable wall and floor coverings, removable partitions, awnings and canopies, window treatments, signs and decorative lighting.

In addition, certain items that otherwise would be treated as real property may qualify as personal property if they serve more of a business function than a structural purpose. This includes reinforced flooring to support heavy manufacturing equipment, electrical or plumbing installations required to operate specialized equipment, or dedicated cooling systems for data processing rooms.

Classify property into the appropriate asset classes

A cost segregation study combines accounting and engineering techniques to identify building costs that are properly allocable to tangible personal property rather than real property. Although the relative costs and benefits of a cost segregation study depend on your particular facts and circumstances, it can be a valuable investment.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enhances certain depreciation-related tax breaks, which may also enhance the benefits of a cost segregation study. Among other things, the act permanently increased limits on Section 179 expensing, which allows you to immediately deduct the entire cost of qualifying equipment or other fixed assets up to specified thresholds.

The TCJA also expanded 15-year-property treatment to apply to qualified improvement property. Previously this break was limited to qualified leasehold improvement, retail improvement and restaurant property. And it temporarily increased first-year bonus depreciation to 100% (from 50%).

The savings can be substantial

Fortunately, it isn’t too late to get the benefit of speedier depreciation for items that were incorrectly assumed to be part of your building for depreciation purposes. You don’t have to amend your past returns (or meet a deadline for claiming tax refunds) to claim the depreciation that you could have already claimed. Instead, you can claim that depreciation by following procedures, in connection with the next tax return that you file, that will result in “automatic” IRS consent to a change in your accounting for depreciation.

Cost segregation studies can yield substantial benefits, but they’re not right for every business. We can judge whether a study will result in overall tax savings greater than the costs of the study itself. Contact us to find out whether this would be worthwhile for you.

10/19/21
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New per diem business travel rates became effective on October 1

Are employees at your business traveling again after months of virtual meetings? In Notice 2021-52, the IRS announced the fiscal 2022 “per diem” rates that became effective October 1, 2021. Taxpayers can use these rates to substantiate the amount of expenses for lodging, meals and incidental expenses when traveling away from home. (Taxpayers in the transportation industry can use a special transportation industry rate.)

Background information

A simplified alternative to tracking actual business travel expenses is to use the high-low per diem method. This method provides fixed travel per diems. The amounts are based on rates set by the IRS that vary from locality to locality.

Under the high-low method, the IRS establishes an annual flat rate for certain areas with higher costs of living. All locations within the continental United States that aren’t listed as “high-cost” are automatically considered “low-cost.” The high-low method may be used in lieu of the specific per diem rates for business destinations. Examples of high-cost areas include Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

Under some circumstances — for example, if an employer provides lodging or pays the hotel directly — employees may receive a per diem reimbursement only for their meals and incidental expenses. There’s also a $5 incidental-expenses-only rate for employees who don’t pay or incur meal expenses for a calendar day (or partial day) of travel.

Less recordkeeping

If your company uses per diem rates, employees don’t have to meet the usual recordkeeping rules required by the IRS. Receipts of expenses generally aren’t required under the per diem method. But employees still must substantiate the time, place and business purpose of the travel. Per diem reimbursements generally aren’t subject to income or payroll tax withholding or reported on an employee’s Form W-2.

The FY2022 rates

For travel after September 30, 2021, the per diem rate for all high-cost areas within the continental United States is $296. This consists of $222 for lodging and $74 for meals and incidental expenses. For all other areas within the continental United States, the per diem rate is $202 for travel after September 30, 2021 ($138 for lodging and $64 for meals and incidental expenses). Compared to the FY2021 per diems, both the high and low-cost area per diems increased $4.

Important: This method is subject to various rules and restrictions. For example, companies that use the high-low method for an employee must continue using it for all reimbursement of business travel expenses within the continental United States during the calendar year. However, the company may use any permissible method to reimburse that employee for any travel outside the continental United States.

For travel during the last three months of a calendar year, employers must continue to use the same method (per diem or high-low method) for an employee as they used during the first nine months of the calendar year. Also, note that per diem rates can’t be paid to individuals who own 10% or more of the business.

If your employees are traveling, it may be a good time to review the rates and consider switching to the high-low method. It can reduce the time and frustration associated with traditional travel reimbursement. Contact us for more information.

10/12/21
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Navigating the tax landscape when donating works of art to charity

If you own a valuable piece of art, or other property, you may wonder how much of a tax deduction you could get by donating it to charity.

The answer to that question can be complex because several different tax rules may come into play with such contributions. A charitable contribution of a work of art is subject to reduction if the charity’s use of the work of art is unrelated to the purpose or function that’s the basis for its qualification as a tax-exempt organization. The reduction equals the amount of capital gain you’d have realized had you sold the property instead of giving it to charity.

For example, let’s say you bought a painting years ago for $10,000 that’s now worth $20,000. You contribute it to a hospital. Your deduction is limited to $10,000 because the hospital’s use of the painting is unrelated to its charitable function, and you’d have a $10,000 long-term capital gain if you sold it. What if you donate the painting to an art museum? In that case, your deduction is $20,000.

Substantiation requirements

One or more substantiation rules may apply when donating art. First, if you claim a deduction of less than $250, you must get and keep a receipt from the organization and keep written records for each item contributed.

If you claim a deduction of $250 to $500, you must get and keep an acknowledgment of your contribution from the charity. It must state whether the organization gave you any goods or services in return for your contribution and include a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services given.

If you claim a deduction in excess of $500, but not over $5,000, in addition to getting an acknowledgment, you must maintain written records that include information about how and when you obtained the property and its cost basis. You must also complete an IRS form and attach it to your tax return.

If the claimed value of the property exceeds $5,000, in addition to an acknowledgment, you must also have a qualified appraisal of the property. This is an appraisal that was done by a qualified appraiser no more than 60 days before the contribution date and meets numerous other requirements. You include information about these donations on an IRS form filed with your tax return.

If your total deduction for art is $20,000 or more, you must attach a copy of the signed appraisal. If an item is valued at $20,000 or more, the IRS may request a photo. If an art item has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can ask the IRS to issue a “Statement of Value” that can be used to substantiate the value.

Percentage limitations

In addition, your deduction may be limited to 20%, 30%, 50%, or 60% of your contribution base, which usually is your adjusted gross income. The percentage varies depending on the year the contribution is made, the type of organization, and whether the deduction of the artwork had to be reduced because of the unrelated use rule explained above. The amount not deductible on account of a ceiling may be deductible in a later year under carryover rules.

Other rules may apply

Donors sometimes make gifts of partial interests in a work of art. Special requirements apply to these donations. If you’d like to discuss any of these rules, please contact us.

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2021 Q4 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2021. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Note: Certain tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines may be postponed for taxpayers who reside in or have a business in federally declared disaster areas.

Friday, October 15
  • If a calendar-year C corporation that filed an automatic six-month extension:
    • File a 2020 income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due.
    • Make contributions for 2020 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Monday, November 1
  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2021 (Form 941) and pay any tax due. (See exception below under “November 10.”)

Wednesday, November 10
  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2021 (Form 941), if you deposited on time (and in full) all of the associated taxes due.

Wednesday, December 15
  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the fourth installment of 2021 estimated income taxes.

Friday, December 31
  • Establish a retirement plan for 2021 (generally other than a SIMPLE, a Safe-Harbor 401(k) or a SEP).

Contact us if you’d like more information about the filing requirements and to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

10/6/21
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M&A transactions: Be careful when reporting to the IRS

Low interest rates and other factors have caused global merger and acquisition (M&A) activity to reach new highs in 2021, according to Refinitiv, a provider of financial data. It reports that 2021 is set to be the biggest in M&A history, with the United States accounting for $2.14 trillion worth of transactions already this year. If you’re considering buying or selling a business — or you’re in the process of an M&A transaction — it’s important that both parties report it to the IRS and state agencies in the same way. Otherwise, you may increase your chances of being audited.

If a sale involves business assets (as opposed to stock or ownership interests), the buyer and the seller must generally report to the IRS the purchase price allocations that both use. This is done by attaching IRS Form 8594, “Asset Acquisition Statement,” to each of their respective federal income tax returns for the tax year that includes the transaction.

Here’s what must be reported

If you buy business assets in an M&A transaction, you must allocate the total purchase price to the specific assets that are acquired. The amount allocated to each asset then becomes its initial tax basis. For depreciable and amortizable assets, the initial tax basis of each asset determines the depreciation and amortization deductions for that asset after the acquisition. Depreciable and amortizable assets include:
 
  • Equipment,
  • Buildings and improvements,
  • Software,
  • Furniture, fixtures and
  • Intangibles (including customer lists, licenses, patents, copyrights and goodwill). 

In addition to reporting the items above, you must also disclose on Form 8594 whether the parties entered into a noncompete agreement, management contract or similar agreement, as well as the monetary consideration paid under it.

What the IRS might examine

The IRS may inspect the forms that are filed to see if the buyer and the seller use different allocations. If the tax agency finds that different allocations are used, auditors may dig deeper and the examination could expand beyond the transaction. So, it’s best to ensure that both parties use the same allocations. Consider including this requirement in your asset purchase agreement at the time of the sale.

The tax implications of buying or selling a business are complex. Price allocations are important because they affect future tax benefits. Both the buyer and the seller need to report them to the IRS in an identical way to avoid unwanted attention. To lock in the best results after an acquisition, consult with us before finalizing any transaction.

9/27/21
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Is a Health Savings Account right for you?

Given the escalating cost of health care, there may be a more cost-effective way to pay for it. For eligible individuals, a Health Savings Account (HSA) offers a tax-favorable way to set aside funds (or have an employer do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the main tax benefits:
  • Contributions made to an HSA are deductible, within limits,
  • Earnings on the funds in the HSA aren’t taxed,
  • Contributions your employer makes aren’t taxed to you, and
  • Distributions from the HSA to cover qualified medical expenses aren’t taxed.
Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for an HSA, you must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2021, a high deductible health plan is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,400 for self-only coverage, or at least $2,800 for family coverage. For self-only coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $3,600. For family coverage, the 2021 limit on deductible contributions is $7,200. Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits can’t exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage.

An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse) who has reached age 55 before the close of the year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2021 of up to $1,000.

HSAs may be established by, or on behalf of, any eligible individual.

Deduction limits

You can deduct contributions to an HSA for the year up to the total of your monthly limitations for the months you were eligible. For 2021, the monthly limitation on deductible contributions for a person with self-only coverage is 1/12 of $3,600. For an individual with family coverage, the monthly limitation on deductible contributions is 1/12 of $7,200. Thus, deductible contributions aren’t limited by the amount of the annual deductible under the high deductible health plan.

Also, taxpayers who are eligible individuals during the last month of the tax year are treated as having been eligible individuals for the entire year for purposes of computing the annual HSA contribution.

However, if an individual is enrolled in Medicare, he or she is no longer eligible under the HSA rules and contributions to an HSA can no longer be made.

On a once-only basis, taxpayers can withdraw funds from an IRA, and transfer them tax-free to an HSA. The amount transferred can be up to the maximum deductible HSA contribution for the type of coverage (individual or family) in effect at the transfer time. The amount transferred is excluded from gross income and isn’t subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Distributions

HSA Distributions to cover an eligible individual’s qualified medical expenses, or those of his spouse or dependents, aren’t taxed. Qualified medical expenses for these purposes generally mean those that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% tax will apply to the withdrawal, unless it’s made after reaching age 65 or in the event of death or disability.

As you can see, HSAs offer a very flexible option for providing health care coverage, but the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you have questions.
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Tax depreciation rules for business automobiles

If you use an automobile in your trade or business, you may wonder how depreciation tax deductions are determined. The rules are complicated, and special limitations that apply to vehicles classified as passenger autos (which include many pickups and SUVs) can result in it taking longer than expected to fully depreciate a vehicle.

Cents-per-mile vs. actual expenses

First, note that separate depreciation calculations for a passenger auto only come into play if you choose to use the actual expense method to calculate deductions. If, instead, you use the standard mileage rate (56 cents per business mile driven for 2021), a depreciation allowance is built into the rate.

If you use the actual expense method to determine your allowable deductions for a passenger auto, you must make a separate depreciation calculation for each year until the vehicle is fully depreciated. According to the general rule, you calculate depreciation over a six-year span as follows: Year 1, 20% of the cost; Year 2, 32%; Year 3, 19.2%; Years 4 and 5, 11.52%; and Year 6, 5.76%. If a vehicle is used 50% or less for business purposes, you must use the straight-line method to calculate depreciation deductions instead of the percentages listed above.

For a passenger auto that costs more than the applicable amount for the year the vehicle is placed in service, you’re limited to specified annual depreciation ceilings. These are indexed for inflation and may change annually.
 
  • For a passenger auto placed in service in 2021 that cost more than $59,000, the Year 1 depreciation ceiling is $18,200 if you choose to deduct $8,000 of first-year bonus depreciation. The annual ceilings for later years are: Year 2, $16,400; Year 3, $9,800; and for all later years, $5,860 until the vehicle is fully depreciated.
  • For a passenger auto placed in service in 2021 that cost more than $51,000, the Year 1 depreciation ceiling is $10,200 if you don’t choose to deduct $8,000 of first-year bonus depreciation. The annual ceilings for later years are: Year 2, $16,400; Year 3, $9,800; and for all later years, $5,860 until the vehicle is fully depreciated.
  • These ceilings are proportionately reduced for any nonbusiness use. And if a vehicle is used 50% or less for business purposes, you must use the straight-line method to calculate depreciation deductions.

Heavy SUVs, pickups, and vans

Much more favorable depreciation rules apply to heavy SUVs, pickups, and vans used over 50% for business, because they’re treated as transportation equipment for depreciation purposes. This means a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) above 6,000 pounds. Quite a few SUVs and pickups pass this test. You can usually find the GVWR on a label on the inside edge of the driver-side door.

After-tax cost is what counts

What’s the impact of these depreciation limits on your business vehicle decisions? They change the after-tax cost of passenger autos used for business. That is, the true cost of a business asset is reduced by the tax savings from related depreciation deductions. To the extent depreciation deductions are reduced, and thereby deferred to future years, the value of the related tax savings is also reduced due to time-value-of-money considerations, and the true cost of the asset is therefore that much higher.

The rules are different if you lease an expensive passenger auto used for business. Contact us if you have questions or want more information.

9/21/21
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Tax breaks to consider during National Small Business Week

The week of September 13-17 has been declared National Small Business Week by the Small Business Administration. To commemorate the week, here are three tax breaks to consider.

1. Claim bonus depreciation or a Section 179 deduction for asset additions

Under current law, 100% first-year bonus depreciation is available for qualified new and used property that’s acquired and placed in service in calendar year 2021. That means your business might be able to write off the entire cost of some or all asset additions on this year’s return. Consider making acquisitions between now and December 31.

Note: It doesn’t always make sense to claim a 100% bonus depreciation deduction in the first year that qualifying property is placed in service. For example, if you think that tax rates will increase in the future — either due to tax law changes or a change in your income — it might be better to forgo bonus depreciation and instead depreciate your 2021 asset acquisitions over time.

There’s also a Section 179 deduction for eligible asset purchases. The maximum Section 179 deduction is $1.05 million for qualifying property placed in service in 2021. Recent tax laws have enhanced Section 179 and bonus depreciation but most businesses benefit more by claiming bonus depreciation. We can explain the details of these tax breaks and which is right for your business. You don’t have to decide until you file your tax return.

2. Claim bonus depreciation for a heavy vehicle

The 100% first-year bonus depreciation provision can have a sizable, beneficial impact on first-year depreciation deductions for new and used heavy SUVs, pickups and vans used over 50% for business. For federal tax purposes, heavy vehicles are treated as transportation equipment so they qualify for 100% bonus depreciation.

This option is available only when the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is above 6,000 pounds. You can verify a vehicle’s GVWR by looking at the manufacturer’s label, usually found on the inside edge of the driver’s side door.

Buying an eligible vehicle and placing it in service before the end of the year can deliver a big write-off on this year’s return. Before signing a sales contract, we can help evaluate what’s right for your business.

3. Maximize the QBI deduction for pass-through businesses

A valuable deduction is the one based on qualified business income (QBI) from pass-through entities. For tax years through 2025, the deduction can be up to 20% of a pass-through entity owner’s QBI. This deduction is subject to restrictions that can apply at higher income levels and based on the owner’s taxable income.

For QBI deduction purposes, pass-through entities are defined as sole proprietorships, single-member LLCs that are treated as sole proprietorships for tax purposes, partnerships, LLCs that are treated as partnerships for tax purposes and S corporations. For these taxpayers, the deduction can also be claimed for up to 20% of income from qualified real estate investment trust dividends and 20% of qualified income from publicly traded partnerships.

Because of various limitations on the QBI deduction, tax planning moves can unexpectedly increase or decrease it. For example, strategies that reduce this year’s taxable income can have the negative side-effect of reducing your QBI deduction.

Plan ahead

These are only a few of the tax breaks your small business may be able to claim. Contact us to help evaluate your planning options and optimize your tax results.

9/14/21
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Selling a home: Will you owe tax on the profit? 

Many homeowners across the country have seen their home values increase recently. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of homes sold in July of 2021 rose 17.8% over July of 2020. The median home price was $411,200 in the Northeast, $275,300 in the Midwest, $305,200 in the South and $508,300 in the West.

Be aware of the tax implications if you’re selling your home or you sold one in 2021. You may owe capital gains tax and net investment income tax (NIIT).

Gain exclusion

If you’re selling your principal residence, and meet certain requirements, you can exclude from tax up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain.

To qualify for the exclusion, you must meet these tests:
  • You must have owned the property for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date.
  • You must have used the property as a principal residence for at least two years during the five-year period. (Periods of ownership and use don’t need to overlap.)
In addition, you can’t use the exclusion more than once every two years.

Gain above the exclusion amount

What if you have more than $250,000/$500,000 of profit? Any gain that doesn’t qualify for the exclusion generally will be taxed at your long-term capital gains rate, provided you owned the home for at least a year. If you didn’t, the gain will be considered short term and subject to your ordinary-income rate, which could be more than double your long-term rate.

If you’re selling a second home (such as a vacation home), it isn’t eligible for the gain exclusion. But if it qualifies as a rental property, it can be considered a business asset, and you may be able to defer tax on any gains through an installment sale or a Section 1031 like-kind exchange. In addition, you may be able to deduct a loss.

The NIIT

How does the 3.8% NIIT apply to home sales? If you sell your main home, and you qualify to exclude up to $250,000/$500,000 of gain, the excluded gain isn’t subject to the NIIT.

However, gain that exceeds the exclusion limit is subject to the tax if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount. Gain from the sale of a vacation home or other second residence, which doesn’t qualify for the exclusion, is also subject to the NIIT.

The NIIT applies only if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds: $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately; and $200,000 for unmarried taxpayers and heads of household.

Two other tax considerations:
       1. Keep track of your basis. To support an accurate tax basis, be sure to maintain complete records, including information about your original cost and subsequent improvements, reduced by any casualty losses and depreciation claimed for business use.
        2. You can’t deduct a loss. If you sell your principal residence at a loss, it generally isn’t deductible. But if a portion of your home is rented out or used exclusively for business, the loss attributable to that part may be deductible.

As you can see, depending on your home sale profit and your income, some or all of the gain may be tax free. But for higher-income people with pricey homes, there may be a tax bill. We can help you plan ahead to minimize taxes and answer any questions you have about home sales.

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Claiming a theft loss deduction if your business is the victim of embezzlement

A business may be able to claim a federal income tax deduction for a theft loss. But does embezzlement count as theft? In most cases it does but you’ll have to substantiate the loss. A recent U.S. Tax Court decision illustrates how that’s sometimes difficult to do.

Basic rules for theft losses

The tax code allows a deduction for losses sustained during the taxable year and not compensated by insurance or other means. The term “theft” is broadly defined to include larceny, embezzlement and robbery. In general, a loss is regarded as arising from theft only if there’s a criminal element to the appropriation of a taxpayer’s property.

In order to claim a theft loss deduction, a taxpayer must prove:
  • The amount of the loss,
  • The date the loss was discovered, and
  • That a theft occurred under the law of the jurisdiction where the alleged loss occurred.

Facts of the recent court case

Years ago, the taxpayer cofounded an S corporation with another shareholder. At the time of the alleged embezzlement, the other original shareholder was no longer a shareholder, and she wasn’t supposed to be compensated by the business. However, according to court records, she continued to manage the S corporation’s books and records.

The taxpayer suffered an illness that prevented him from working for most of the year in question. During this time, the former shareholder paid herself $166,494. Later, the taxpayer filed a civil suit in a California court alleging that the woman had misappropriated funds from the business.

On an amended tax return, the corporation reported a $166,494 theft loss due to the embezzlement. The IRS denied the deduction. After looking at the embezzlement definition under California state law, the Tax Court agreed with the IRS.

The Tax Court stated that the taxpayer didn’t offer evidence that the former shareholder “acted with the intent to defraud,” and the taxpayer didn’t show that the corporation “experienced a theft meeting the elements of embezzlement under California law.”

The IRS and the court also denied the taxpayer’s alternate argument that the corporation should be allowed to claim a compensation deduction for the amount of money the former shareholder paid herself. The court stated that the taxpayer didn’t provide evidence that the woman was entitled to be paid compensation from the corporation and therefore, the corporation wasn’t entitled to a compensation deduction. (TC Memo 2021-66)

How to proceed if you’re victimized

If your business is victimized by theft, embezzlement or internal fraud, you may be able to claim a tax deduction for the loss. Keep in mind that a deductible loss can only be claimed for the year in which the loss is discovered, and that you must meet other tax-law requirements. Keep records to substantiate the claimed theft loss, including when you discovered the loss. If you receive an insurance payment or other reimbursement for the loss, that amount must be subtracted when computing the deductible loss for tax purposes. Contact us with any questions you may have about theft and casualty loss deductions.

9/7/21
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Want to find out what IRS auditors know about your business industry?

In order to prepare for a business audit, an IRS examiner generally does research about the specific industry and issues on the taxpayer’s return. Examiners may use IRS “Audit Techniques Guides (ATGs).” A little-known secret is that these guides are available to the public on the IRS website. In other words, your business can use the same guides to gain insight into what the IRS is looking for in terms of compliance with tax laws and regulations.

Many ATGs target specific industries or businesses, such as construction, aerospace, art galleries, architecture and veterinary medicine. Others address issues that frequently arise in audits, such as executive compensation, passive activity losses and capitalization of tangible property.

Unique issues

IRS auditors need to examine different types of businesses, as well as individual taxpayers and tax-exempt organizations. Each type of return might have unique industry issues, business practices and terminology. Before meeting with taxpayers and their advisors, auditors do their homework to understand various industries or issues, the accounting methods commonly used, how income is received, and areas where taxpayers might not be in compliance.

By using a specific ATG, an auditor may be able to reconcile discrepancies when reported income or expenses aren’t consistent with what’s normal for the industry or to identify anomalies within the geographic area in which the business is located.

Updates and revisions

Some guides were written several years ago and others are relatively new. There is not a guide for every industry. Here are some of the guide titles that have been revised or added this year:
  • Retail Industry (March 2021),
  • Construction Industry (April 2021),
  • Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (June 2021), and
  • Real Estate Property Foreclosure and Cancellation of Debt (August 2021).
Although ATGs were created to help IRS examiners uncover common methods of hiding income and inflating deductions, they also can help businesses ensure they aren’t engaging in practices that could raise audit red flags. For a complete list of ATGs, visit the IRS website here: http://bit.ly/2rh7umD

8/31/21
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Getting a divorce? Be aware of tax implications if you own a business

If you’re a business owner and you’re getting a divorce, tax issues can complicate matters. Your business ownership interest is one of your biggest personal assets and in many cases, your marital property will include all or part of it.

Tax-free property transfers

You can generally divide most assets, including cash and business ownership interests, between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse without any federal income or gift tax consequences. When an asset falls under this tax-free transfer rule, the spouse who receives the asset takes over its existing tax basis (for tax gain or loss purposes) and its existing holding period (for short-term or long-term holding period purposes).

Let’s say that under the terms of your divorce agreement, you give your house to your spouse in exchange for keeping 100% of the stock in your business. That asset swap would be tax-free. And the existing basis and holding periods for the home and the stock would carry over to the person who receives them.

Tax-free transfers can occur before a divorce or at the time it becomes final. Tax-free treatment also applies to post-divorce transfers as long as they’re made “incident to divorce.” This means transfers that occur within:

     1. A year after the date the marriage ends, or
     2. Six years after the date the marriage ends if the transfers are made pursuant to your divorce agreement.

More tax issues

Later on, there will be tax implications for assets received tax-free in a divorce settlement. The ex-spouse who winds up owning an appreciated asset — when the fair market value exceeds the tax basis — generally must recognize taxable gain when it’s sold (unless an exception applies).

What if your ex-spouse receives 49% of your highly appreciated small business stock? Thanks to the tax-free transfer rule, there’s no tax impact when the shares are transferred. Your ex will continue to apply the same tax rules as if you had continued to own the shares, including carryover basis and carryover holding period. When your ex-spouse ultimately sells the shares, he or she will owe any capital gains taxes. You will owe nothing.

Note that the person who winds up owning appreciated assets must pay the built-in tax liability that comes with them. From a net-of-tax perspective, appreciated assets are worth less than an equal amount of cash or other assets that haven’t appreciated. That’s why you should always take taxes into account when negotiating your divorce agreement.

In addition, the beneficial tax-free transfer rule is now extended to ordinary-income assets, not just to capital-gains assets. For example, if you transfer business receivables or inventory to your ex-spouse in a divorce, these types of ordinary-income assets can also be transferred tax-free. When the asset is later sold, converted to cash or exercised (in the case of nonqualified stock options), the person who owns the asset at that time must recognize the income and pay the tax liability.

Plan ahead to avoid surprises

Like many major life events, divorce can have major tax implications. For example, you may receive an unexpected tax bill if you don’t carefully handle the splitting up of qualified retirement plan accounts (such as a 401(k) plan) and IRAs. And if you own a business, the stakes are higher. We can help you minimize the adverse tax consequences of settling your divorce.

8/24/21
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ABLE accounts may help disabled or blind family members 

There may be a tax-advantaged way for people to save for the needs of family members with disabilities — without having them lose eligibility for government benefits to which they’re entitled. It can be done though an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account, which is a tax-free account that can be used for disability-related expenses.

Who is eligible?

ABLE accounts can be created by eligible individuals to support themselves, by family members to support their dependents, or by guardians for the benefit of the individuals for whom they’re responsible. Anyone can contribute to an ABLE account. While contributions aren’t tax-deductible, the funds in the account are invested and grow free of tax.

Eligible individuals must be blind or disabled — and must have become so before turning age 26. They also must be entitled to benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs. Alternatively, an individual can become eligible if a disability certificate is filed with the IRS for him or her.

Distributions from an ABLE account are tax-free if used to pay for expenses that maintain or improve the beneficiary’s health, independence or quality of life. These expenses include education, housing, transportation, employment support, health and wellness costs, assistive technology, personal support services, and other IRS-approved expenses.

If distributions are used for nonqualified expenses, the portion of the distribution that represents earnings on the account is subject to income tax — plus a 10% penalty.

More details

Here are some other key factors:
  • An eligible individual can have only one ABLE account. Contributions up to the annual gift-tax exclusion amount, currently $15,000, may be made to an ABLE account each year for the benefit of an eligible person. If the beneficiary works, the beneficiary can also contribute part, or all, of their income to their account. (This additional contribution is limited to the poverty-line amount for a one-person household.)
  • There’s also a limit on the total account balance. This limit, which varies from state to state, is equal to the limit imposed by that state on qualified tuition (Section 529) plans.
  • ABLE accounts have no impact on an individual’s Medicaid eligibility. However, ABLE account balances in excess of $100,000 are counted toward the SSI program’s $2,000 individual resource limit. Therefore, an individual’s SSI benefits are suspended, but not terminated, when his or her ABLE account balance exceeds $102,000 (assuming the individual has no other assets). In addition, distributions from an ABLE account to pay housing expenses count toward the SSI income limit.
  • For contributions made before 2026, the designated beneficiary can claim the saver’s credit for contributions made to his or her ABLE account.
States establish programs

There are many choices. ABLE accounts are established under state programs. An account may be opened under any state’s program (if the state allows out-of-state participants). The funds in an account can be invested in a variety of options and the account’s investment directions can be changed up to twice a year. Contact us if you’d like more details about setting up or maintaining an ABLE account.

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Possible tax consequences of guaranteeing a loan to your corporation

What if you decide to, or are asked to, guarantee a loan to your corporation? Before agreeing to act as a guarantor, endorser or indemnitor of a debt obligation of your closely held corporation, be aware of the possible tax consequences. If your corporation defaults on the loan and you’re required to pay principal or interest under the guarantee agreement, you don’t want to be blindsided.

Business vs. nonbusiness

If you’re compelled to make good on the obligation, the payment of principal or interest in discharge of the obligation generally results in a bad debt deduction. This may be either a business or a nonbusiness bad debt deduction. If it’s a business bad debt, it’s deductible against ordinary income. A business bad debt can be either totally or partly worthless. If it’s a nonbusiness bad debt, it’s deductible as a short-term capital loss, which is subject to certain limitations on deductions of capital losses. A nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if it’s totally worthless.

In order to be treated as a business bad debt, the guarantee must be closely related to your trade or business. If the reason for guaranteeing the corporation loan is to protect your job, the guarantee is considered closely related to your trade or business as an employee. But employment must be the dominant motive. If your annual salary exceeds your investment in the corporation, this tends to show that the dominant motive for the guarantee was to protect your job. On the other hand, if your investment in the corporation substantially exceeds your annual salary, that’s evidence that the guarantee was primarily to protect your investment rather than your job.

Except in the case of job guarantees, it may be difficult to show the guarantee was closely related to your trade or business. You’d have to show that the guarantee was related to your business as a promoter, or that the guarantee was related to some other trade or business separately carried on by you.

If the reason for guaranteeing your corporation’s loan isn’t closely related to your trade or business and you’re required to pay off the loan, you can take a nonbusiness bad debt deduction if you show that your reason for the guarantee was to protect your investment, or you entered the guarantee transaction with a profit motive.

In addition to satisfying the above requirements, a business or nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if:
 
  • You have a legal duty to make the guaranty payment, although there’s no requirement that a legal action be brought against you;
  • The guaranty agreement was entered into before the debt becomes worthless; and
  • You received reasonable consideration (not necessarily cash or property) for entering into the guaranty agreement.

Any payment you make on a loan you guaranteed is deductible as a bad debt in the year you make it, unless the agreement (or local law) provides for a right of subrogation against the corporation. If you have this right, or some other right to demand payment from the corporation, you can’t take a bad debt deduction until the rights become partly or totally worthless.

These are only a few of the possible tax consequences of guaranteeing a loan to your closely held corporation. Contact us to learn all the implications in your situation.

8/17/21
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Scholarships are usually tax free but they may result in taxable income

If your child is fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship, you may wonder about the tax implications. Fortunately, scholarships (and fellowships) are generally tax free for students at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as those attending college, graduate school or accredited vocational schools. It doesn’t matter if the scholarship makes a direct payment to the individual or reduces tuition.

Requirements for tax-free treatment

However, scholarships are not always tax free. Certain conditions must be satisfied. A scholarship is tax free only to the extent it’s used to pay for:
  • Tuition and fees required to attend the school and
  • Fees, books, supplies and equipment required of all students in a particular course.
For example, expenses that don’t qualify include the cost of room and board, travel, research and clerical help.

To the extent a scholarship award isn’t used for qualifying items, it’s taxable. The recipient is responsible for establishing how much of an award is used to pay for tuition and eligible expenses. Maintain records (such as copies of bills, receipts and cancelled checks) that reflect the use of the scholarship money.

Payment for services doesn’t qualify

Subject to limited exceptions, a scholarship isn’t tax free if the payments are linked to services that your child performs as a condition for receiving the award, even if the services are required of all degree candidates. Therefore, a stipend your child receives for required teaching, research or other services is taxable, even if the child uses the money for tuition or related expenses.

What if you, or a family member, are an employee of an education institution that provides reduced or free tuition? A reduction in tuition provided to you, your spouse or your dependents by the school at which you work isn’t included in your income and isn’t subject to tax.

What is reported on a tax return?

If a scholarship is tax free and your child has no other income, the award doesn’t have to be reported on a tax return. However, any portion of an award that’s taxable as payment for services is treated as wages. Estimated tax payments may have to be made if the payor doesn’t withhold enough tax. Your child should receive a Form W-2 showing the amount of these “wages” and the amount of tax withheld, and any portion of the award that’s taxable must be reported, even if no Form W-2 is received.

These are just the basic rules. Other rules and limitations may apply. For example, if your child’s scholarship is taxable, it may limit other higher education tax benefits to which you or your child are entitled. As we approach the new academic year, best wishes for your child’s success in school. Contact us if you’d like to discuss these or other tax matters further.

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Large cash transactions with your business must be reported to the IRS

If your business receives large amounts of cash or cash equivalents, you may be required to report these transactions to the IRS.

What are the requirements?

Each person who, in the course of operating a trade or business, receives more than $10,000 in cash in one transaction (or two or more related transactions), must file Form 8300. What is considered a “related transaction?” Any transactions conducted in a 24-hour period. Transactions can also be considered related even if they occur over a period of more than 24 hours if the recipient knows, or has reason to know, that each transaction is one of a series of connected transactions.

To complete a Form 8300, you’ll need personal information about the person making the cash payment, including a Social Security or taxpayer identification number.

Why does the government require reporting?

Although many cash transactions are legitimate, the IRS explains that “information reported on (Form 8300) can help stop those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade, engage in terrorist financing and conduct other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on Form 8300 and other cash reporting forms.”

You should keep a copy of each Form 8300 for five years from the date you file it, according to the IRS.

What’s considered “cash” and “cash equivalents?”

For Form 8300 reporting purposes, cash includes U.S. currency and coins, as well as foreign money. It also includes cash equivalents such as cashier’s checks (sometimes called bank checks), bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders.

Money orders and cashier’s checks under $10,000, when used in combination with other forms of cash for a single transaction that exceeds $10,000, are defined as cash for Form 8300 reporting purposes.

Note: Under a separate reporting requirement, banks and other financial institutions report cash purchases of cashier’s checks, treasurer’s checks and/or bank checks, bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders with a face value of more than $10,000 by filing currency transaction reports.

Can the forms be filed electronically?

Businesses required to file reports of large cash transactions on Form 8300 should know that in addition to filing on paper, e-filing is an option. The form is due 15 days after a transaction and there’s no charge for the e-file option. Businesses that file electronically get an automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file.

The IRS also reminds businesses that they can “batch file” their reports, which is especially helpful to those required to file many forms.

How can we set up an electronic account?

To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must set up an account with FinCEN’s Bank Secrecy Act E-Filing System. For more information, visit: https://bit.ly/3fMMLAu  Interested businesses can also call the BSA E-Filing Help Desk at 866-346-9478 (Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm EST). Contact us with any questions or for assistance.

8/10/21
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5 possible tax aspects of a parent moving into a nursing home

If you have a parent entering a nursing home, you may not be thinking about taxes. But there are a number of possible tax implications. Here are five.

1. Long-term medical care
The costs of qualified long-term care, including nursing home care, are deductible as medical expenses to the extent they, along with other medical expenses, exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI).

Qualified long-term care services are necessary diagnostic, preventive, therapeutic, curing, treating, mitigating and rehabilitative services, and maintenance or personal-care services required by a chronically ill individual that is provided under care administered by a licensed healthcare practitioner.

To qualify as chronically ill, a physician or other licensed healthcare practitioner must certify an individual as unable to perform at least two activities of daily living (eating, toileting, transferring, bathing, dressing, and continence) for at least 90 days due to a loss of functional capacity or severe cognitive impairment.

2. Long-term care insurance

Premiums paid for a qualified long-term care insurance contract are deductible as medical expenses (subject to limitations explained below) to the extent they, along with other medical expenses, exceed the percentage-of-AGI threshold. A qualified long-term care insurance contract covers only qualified long-term care services, doesn’t pay costs covered by Medicare, is guaranteed renewable and doesn’t have a cash surrender value.

Qualified long-term care premiums are includible as medical expenses up to certain amounts. For individuals over 60 but not over 70 years old, the 2021 limit on deductible long-term care insurance premiums is $4,520, and for those over 70, the 2021 limit is $5,640.

3. Nursing home payments

Amounts paid to a nursing home are deductible as a medical expense if a person is staying at the facility principally for medical, rather than custodial care. If a person isn’t in the nursing home principally to receive medical care, only the portion of the fee that’s allocable to actual medical care qualifies as a deductible expense. But if the individual is chronically ill, all qualified long-term care services, including maintenance or personal care services, are deductible.

If your parent qualifies as your dependent, you can include any medical expenses you incur for your parent along with your own when determining your medical deduction.

4. Head-of-household filing status

If you aren’t married and you meet certain dependency tests for your parent, you may qualify for head-of-household filing status, which has a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates than single filing status. You may be eligible to file as head of household even if the parent for whom you claim an exemption doesn’t live with you.

5. The sale of your parent’s home.
If your parent sells his or her home, up to $250,000 of the gain from the sale may be tax-free. In order to qualify for the $250,000 exclusion, the seller must generally have owned the home for at least two years out of the five years before the sale, and used the home as a principal residence for at least two years out of the five years before the sale. However, there’s an exception to the two-out-of-five-year use test if the seller becomes physically or mentally unable to care for him or herself during the five-year period.

These are only some of the tax issues you may deal with when your parent moves into a nursing home. Contact us if you need more information or assistance.

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Is an LLC the right choice for your small business?

Perhaps you operate your small business as a sole proprietorship and want to form a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your assets. Or maybe you are launching a new business and want to know your options for setting it up. Here are the basics of operating as an LLC and why it might be appropriate for your business.

An LLC is somewhat of a hybrid entity because it can be structured to resemble a corporation for owner liability purposes and a partnership for federal tax purposes. This duality may provide the owners with the best of both worlds.

Personal asset protection

Like the shareholders of a corporation, the owners of an LLC (called “members” rather than shareholders or partners) generally aren’t liable for the debts of the business except to the extent of their investment. Thus, the owners can operate the business with the security of knowing that their personal assets are protected from the entity’s creditors. This protection is far greater than that afforded by partnerships. In a partnership, the general partners are personally liable for the debts of the business. Even limited partners, if they actively participate in managing the business, can have personal liability.

Tax implications

The owners of an LLC can elect under the “check-the-box” rules to have the entity treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes. This can provide a number of important benefits to the owners. For example, partnership earnings aren’t subject to an entity-level tax. Instead, they “flow through” to the owners, in proportion to the owners’ respective interests in profits, and are reported on the owners’ individual returns and are taxed only once.

To the extent the income passed through to you is qualified business income, you’ll be eligible to take the Code Section 199A pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. In addition, since you’re actively managing the business, you can deduct on your individual tax return your ratable shares of any losses the business generates. This, in effect, allows you to shelter other income that you and your spouse may have.

An LLC that’s taxable as a partnership can provide special allocations of tax benefits to specific partners. This can be an important reason for using an LLC over an S corporation (a form of business that provides tax treatment that’s similar to a partnership). Another reason for using an LLC over an S corporation is that LLCs aren’t subject to the restrictions the federal tax code imposes on S corporations regarding the number of owners and the types of ownership interests that may be issued.

Review your situation

In summary, an LLC can give you corporate-like protection from creditors while providing the benefits of taxation as a partnership. For these reasons, you should consider operating your business as an LLC. Contact us to discuss in more detail how an LLC might benefit you and the other owners.

8/3/21
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You may have loads of student debt, but it may be hard to deduct the interest

More than 43 million student borrowers are in debt with an average of $39,351 each, according to the research group EducationData.org. If you have student loan debt, you may wonder if you can deduct the interest you pay. The answer is yes, subject to certain limits. However, the deduction is phased out if your adjusted gross income exceeds certain levels — and they aren’t as high as the income levels for many other deductions.

Basics of the deduction

The maximum amount of student loan interest you can deduct each year is $2,500. The interest must be for a “qualified education loan,” which means a debt incurred to pay tuition, room and board, and related expenses to attend a post-high school educational institution, including certain vocational schools. Post-graduate programs may also qualify. For example, an internship or residency program leading to a degree or certificate awarded by an institution of higher education, hospital, or health care facility offering post-graduate training can qualify.

It doesn’t matter when the loan was taken out or whether interest payments made in earlier years on the loan were deductible or not.

For 2021, the deduction is phased out for single taxpayers with AGI between $70,000 and $85,000 ($140,000 and $170,000 for married couples filing jointly). The deduction is unavailable for single taxpayers with AGI of more than $85,000 ($170,000 or married couples filing jointly).

Married taxpayers must file jointly to claim this deduction.

The deduction is taken “above the line.” In other words, it’s subtracted from gross income to determine AGI. Thus, it’s available even to taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions.

Not eligible

No deduction is allowed to a taxpayer who can be claimed as a dependent on another tax return. For example, let’s say a parent is paying for the college education of a child whom the parent is claiming as a dependent. In this case, the interest deduction is only available for interest the parent pays on a qualifying loan, not for any of the interest the child may pay on a loan the student may have taken out. The child will be able to deduct interest that is paid in later years when he or she is no longer a dependent.

Other requirements

The interest must be on funds borrowed to cover qualified education costs of the taxpayer or his spouse or dependent. The student must be a degree candidate carrying at least half the normal full-time workload. Also, the education expenses must be paid or incurred within a reasonable time before or after the loan is taken out.

Taxpayers must keep records to verify qualifying expenditures. Documenting a tuition expense isn’t likely to pose a problem. However, care should be taken to document other qualifying education-related expenses including books, equipment, fees, and transportation.

Documenting room and board expenses should be straightforward for students living and dining on campus. Student who live off campus should maintain records of room and board expenses, especially when there are complicating factors such as roommates.

Contact us if you’d like help in determining whether you qualify for this deduction or if you have questions about it.

© 2021
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The deductibility of corporate expenses covered by officers or shareholders

Do you play a major role in a closely held corporation and sometimes spend money on corporate expenses personally? These costs may wind up being nondeductible both by an officer and the corporation unless proper steps are taken. This issue is more likely to arise in connection with a financially troubled corporation.

Deductible vs. nondeductible expenses

In general, you can’t deduct an expense you incur on behalf of your corporation, even if it’s a legitimate “trade or business” expense and even if the corporation is financially troubled. This is because a taxpayer can only deduct expenses that are his own. And since your corporation’s legal existence as a separate entity must be respected, the corporation’s costs aren’t yours and thus can’t be deducted even if you pay them.

What’s more, the corporation won’t generally be able to deduct them either because it didn’t pay them itself. Accordingly, be advised that it shouldn’t be a practice of your corporation’s officers or major shareholders to cover corporate costs.

When expenses may be deductible

On the other hand, if a corporate executive incurs costs that relate to an essential part of his or her duties as an executive, they may be deductible as ordinary and necessary expenses related to his or her “trade or business” of being an executive. If you wish to set up an arrangement providing for payments to you and safeguarding their deductibility, a provision should be included in your employment contract with the corporation stating the types of expenses which are part of your duties and authorizing you to incur them. For example, you may be authorized to attend out-of-town business conferences on the corporation’s behalf at your personal expense.

Alternatively, to avoid the complete loss of any deductions by both yourself and the corporation, an arrangement should be in place under which the corporation reimburses you for the expenses you incur. Turn the receipts over to the corporation and use an expense reimbursement claim form or system. This will at least allow the corporation to deduct the amount of the reimbursement.

Contact us if you’d like assistance or would like to discuss these issues further.

7/27/21
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There’s currently a “stepped-up basis” if you inherit property — but will it last?

If you’re planning your estate, or you’ve recently inherited assets, you may be unsure of the “cost” (or “basis”) for tax purposes.

The current rules

Under the current fair market value basis rules (also known as the “step-up and step-down” rules), an heir receives a basis in inherited property equal to its date-of-death value. So, for example, if your grandmother bought stock in 1935 for $500 and it’s worth $1 million at her death, the basis is stepped up to $1 million in the hands of your grandmother’s heirs — and all of that gain escapes federal income tax.

The fair market value basis rules apply to inherited property that’s includible in the deceased’s gross estate, and those rules also apply to property inherited from foreign persons who aren’t subject to U.S. estate tax. It doesn’t matter if a federal estate tax return is filed. The rules apply to the inherited portion of property owned by the inheriting taxpayer jointly with the deceased, but not the portion of jointly held property that the inheriting taxpayer owned before his or her inheritance. The fair market value basis rules also don’t apply to reinvestments of estate assets by fiduciaries.

Gifting before death

It’s crucial to understand the current fair market value basis rules so that you don’t pay more tax than you’re legally required to.

For example, in the above example, if your grandmother decides to make a gift of the stock during her lifetime (rather than passing it on when she dies), the “step-up” in basis (from $500 to $1 million) would be lost. Property that has gone up in value acquired by gift is subject to the “carryover” basis rules. That means the person receiving the gift takes the same basis the donor had in it ($500 in this example), plus a portion of any gift tax the donor pays on the gift.

A “step-down” occurs if someone dies owning property that has declined in value. In that case, the basis is lowered to the date-of-death value. Proper planning calls for seeking to avoid this loss of basis. Giving the property away before death won’t preserve the basis. That’s because when property that has gone down in value is the subject of a gift, the person receiving the gift must take the date of gift value as his basis (for purposes of determining his or her loss on a later sale). Therefore, a good strategy for property that has declined in value is for the owner to sell it before death so he or she can enjoy the tax benefits of the loss.

Change on the horizon?

Be aware that President Biden has proposed ending the ability to step-up the basis for gains in excess of $1 million. There would be exemptions for family-owned businesses and farms. Of course, any proposal must be approved by Congress in order to be enacted.

These are the basic rules. Other rules and limits may apply. For example, in some cases, a deceased person’s executor may be able to make an alternate valuation election. Contact us for tax assistance when estate planning or after receiving an inheritance. We’ll keep you up to date on any tax law changes.

7/23/21
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Getting a new business off the ground: How start-up expenses are handled on your tax return

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, government officials are seeing a large increase in the number of new businesses being launched. From June 2020 through June 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that business applications are up 18.6%. The Bureau measures this by the number of businesses applying for an Employer Identification Number.

Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many of the expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your federal tax bill.

How to treat expenses for tax purposes

If you’re starting or planning to launch a new business, keep these three rules in mind:

   1. Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.

   2. Under the tax code, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs in the year the business begins. As you know, $5,000 doesn’t go very far these days! And the $5,000 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount by which your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized over 180 months on a straight-line basis.

   3. No deductions or amortization deductions are allowed until the year when “active conduct” of your new business begins. Generally, that means the year when the business has all the pieces in place to start earning revenue. To determine if a taxpayer meets this test, the IRS and courts generally ask questions such as: Did the taxpayer undertake the activity intending to earn a profit? Was the taxpayer regularly and actively involved? Did the activity actually begin?

Eligible expenses

In general, start-up expenses are those you make to:
 
  • Investigate the creation or acquisition of a business,
  • Create a business, or
  • Engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business.

To qualify for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.

To be eligible as an “organization expense,” an expense must be related to establishing a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.

Plan now

If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the election described above. Recordkeeping is critical. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business.

7/21/21
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Can taxpayers who manage their own investment portfolios deduct related expenses? It depends 

Do you have significant investment-related expenses, including the cost of subscriptions to financial services, home office expenses and clerical costs? Under current tax law, these expenses aren’t deductible through 2025 if they’re considered investment expenses for the production of income. But they’re deductible if they’re considered trade or business expenses.

For years before 2018, production-of-income expenses were deductible, but they were included in miscellaneous itemized deductions, which were subject to a 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income floor. (These rules are scheduled to return after 2025.) If you do a significant amount of trading, you should know which category your investment expenses fall into, because qualifying for trade or business expense treatment is more advantageous now.

In order to deduct your investment-related expenses as business expenses, you must be engaged in a trade or business. The U.S. Supreme Court held many years ago that an individual taxpayer isn’t engaged in a trade or business merely because the individual manages his or her own securities investments — regardless of the amount or the extent of the work required.

A trader vs. an investor

However, if you can show that your investment activities rise to the level of carrying on a trade or business, you may be considered a trader, who is engaged in a trade or business, rather than an investor, who isn’t. As a trader, you’re entitled to deduct your investment-related expenses as business expenses. A trader is also entitled to deduct home office expenses if the home office is used exclusively on a regular basis as the trader’s principal place of business. An investor, on the other hand, isn’t entitled to home office deductions since the investment activities aren’t a trade or business.

Since the Supreme Court decision, there has been extensive litigation on the issue of whether a taxpayer is a trader or investor. The U.S. Tax Court has developed a two-part test that must be satisfied in order for a taxpayer to be a trader. Under this test, a taxpayer’s investment activities are considered a trade or business only where both of the following are true:

    1.The taxpayer’s trading is substantial (in other words, sporadic trading isn’t considered a trade or business), and

     2. The taxpayer seeks to profit from short-term market swings, rather than from long-term holding of investments.

Profit in the short term
So, the fact that a taxpayer’s investment activities are regular, extensive and continuous isn’t in itself sufficient for determining that a taxpayer is a trader. In order to be considered a trader, you must show that you buy and sell securities with reasonable frequency in an effort to profit on a short-term basis. In one case, a taxpayer who made more than 1,000 trades a year with trading activities averaging about $16 million annually was held to be an investor rather than a trader because the holding periods for stocks sold averaged about one year.

Contact us if you have questions or would like to figure out whether you’re an investor or a trader for tax purposes.

7/16/21 
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Who in a small business can be hit with the “Trust Fund Recovery Penalty?”

There’s a harsh tax penalty that you could be at risk for paying personally if you own or manage a business with employees. It’s called the “Trust Fund Recovery Penalty” and it applies to the Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld by a business from its employees’ wages.

Because taxes are considered property of the government, the employer holds them in “trust” on the government’s behalf until they’re paid over. The penalty is also sometimes called the “100% penalty” because the person liable and responsible for the taxes will be penalized 100% of the taxes due. Accordingly, the amounts IRS seeks when the penalty is applied are usually substantial, and IRS is aggressive in enforcing the penalty.

Wide-ranging penalty

The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty is among the more dangerous tax penalties because it applies to a broad range of actions and to a wide range of people involved in a business.

Here are some answers to questions about the penalty so you can safely avoid it.

What actions are penalized? The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty applies to any willful failure to collect, or truthfully account for, and pay over Social Security and income taxes required to be withheld from employees’ wages.

Who is at risk? The penalty can be imposed on anyone “responsible” for collection and payment of the tax. This has been broadly defined to include a corporation’s officers, directors and shareholders under a duty to collect and pay the tax as well as a partnership’s partners, or any employee of the business with such a duty. Even voluntary board members of tax-exempt organizations, who are generally exempt from responsibility, can be subject to this penalty under some circumstances. In some cases, responsibility has even been extended to family members close to the business, and to attorneys and accountants.

According to the IRS, responsibility is a matter of status, duty and authority. Anyone with the power to see that the taxes are (or aren’t) paid may be responsible. There’s often more than one responsible person in a business, but each is at risk for the entire penalty. You may not be directly involved with the payroll tax withholding process in your business. But if you learn of a failure to pay over withheld taxes and have the power to pay them but instead make payments to creditors and others, you become a responsible person.

Although a taxpayer held liable can sue other responsible people for contribution, this action must be taken entirely on his or her own after the penalty is paid. It isn’t part of the IRS collection process.

What’s considered “willful?” For actions to be willful, they don’t have to include an overt intent to evade taxes. Simply bending to business pressures and paying bills or obtaining supplies instead of paying over withheld taxes that are due the government is willful behavior. And just because you delegate responsibilities to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Your failure to take care of the job yourself can be treated as the willful element.

Never borrow from taxes

Under no circumstances should you fail to withhold taxes or “borrow” from withheld amounts. All funds withheld should be paid over to the government on time. Contact us with any questions about making tax payments.

7/13/21