Tax Tips for Businesses

Employee Business Expenses Tips

Employee Business Expenses Tips

If you paid for work-related expenses out of your own pocket, you may be able to deduct those costs. In most cases, you claim allowable employee business expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Here are six tax tips that you should know about this deduction.

  1. Ordinary and Necessary. You can only deduct unreimbursed expenses that are ordinary and necessary to your work as an employee. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate and helpful to your business.
  2. Expense Examples.  Some costs that you may be travel-expense-reportable to deduct include:
  • Required work clothes or uniforms that are not appropriate for everyday use.
  • Supplies and tools you use on the job.
  • Business use of your car.
  • Business meals and entertainment.
  • Business travel away from home.
  • Business use of your home.
  • Work-related education.

This list is not all-inclusive. Special rules apply if your employer reimbursed you for your expenses. To learn more, check out Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. You should also refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

  1. Forms to Use.  In most cases you report your expenses on Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ. After you figure your allowable expenses, you then list the total on Schedule A as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the amount that is more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
  2. Educator Expenses.  If you are a K through 12 teacher or educator, you may be able to deduct up to $250 of certain expenses you paid for in 2014. These may include books, supplies, equipment, and other materials used in the classroom. You claim this deduction as an adjustment on your tax return, rather than as an itemized deduction. This deduction had expired at the end of 2013. A recent tax law extended it for one year, through Dec. 31, 2014. For more on this topic see Publication 529.
  3. Keep Records. You must keep records to prove the expenses you deduct. For what records to keep, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax.

 

Information from IRS tax tip 2015-45 was used in this blog post.

Read More

Tax Deadline Tips

File on Time Even if You Can’t Pay

Do you owe more tax than you can afford to pay when you file? If so, don’t fail to take action. Make sure to file on time. That way you won’t have a penalty for filing late. Here is what to do if you can’t pay all your taxes by the due date.

  • File an Extension. An automatic six month exttAx Time Calculatorension is available for all taxpayers by filling out form 4868. This allows you to avoid IRS late-filing penalties. An extension only extends the due date for the paperwork, not the payment. If you owe money, you should estimate what the amount will be and make a payment along with your extension.
  • File on time and pay as much as you can.  You should file on time to avoid a late filing penalty. Pay as much as you can with your tax return. The more you can pay on time, the less interest and late payment penalty charges you will owe.
  • Pay online with IRS Direct Pay.  IRS Direct Pay is the latest electronic payment option available from the IRS. It allows you to schedule payments online from your checking or savings account with no additional fee and with an immediate payment confirmation. It’s, secure, easy, and much quicker than mailing in a check or money order.
  • Pay the rest of your tax as soon as you can.  If it is possible, get a loan or use a credit card to pay the balance. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than the interest and penalties charged for late payment of tax. For debit or credit card options, visit IRS.gov.
  • Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  You don’t need to wait for IRS to send you a bill to ask for an installment agreement. The best way is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can even set up a direct debit installment agreement. When you pay with a direct debit plan, you won’t have to write a check and mail it on time each month. And you won’t miss any payments that could mean more penalties. If you can’t use the IRS.gov tool, you can file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request instead.
  • Don’t ignore a tax bill.  If you get a bill, don’t ignore it. The IRS may take collection action if you ignore the bill. Contact the IRS right away to talk about your options. If you face a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you.

In short, remember to file on time. Pay as much as you can by the tax deadline. Pay the rest as soon as you can.

Information from IRS tax tip 2015-53 was used in this blog post.

Read More

2015 Standard Mileage Rates

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2015 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 57.5 cents per mile for business miles drivenmileage-photo
  • 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Other Helpful Info

2014 Personal Limits/Deductions

  • IRA/Roth Contribution limit   $5,500
  • 401k Maximum employee contribution   $17,500
  • 2014 Personal/Dependency Exemption   $3,950
  • Married Filing Joint Standard Deduction   $12,400
  • Head of Household Standard Deduction   $9,100
  • Single & Married Filing Separately Standard Deduction   $6,200

2014 Estates, Gifts, & Social Security

  • Annual gift, per person   $14,000
  • Estate Exemption Equivalent   $5,340,000
  • FICA Earnings Limit   $117,000
Read More

Employer Responsibilities for the Affordable Care Act

If you are an employer, the number of employees in your business will affect what you need to know about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Employers with 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees are generally considered to be “applicable large employers” (ALEs) under the employer shared responsibility provisions of the ACA.  Applicable large employers are subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions.  However, more than 95 percent of employers are not ALEs and are not subject to these provisions because they have fewer than 50 full-time and full-time-equivalent employees.

Whether an employer is an ALE is determined each calendar year based on employment and hours of service data from the prior calendar year. An employer can find information about determining the size of its workforce in the employer shared responsibility provision questions and answers section of the IRS.gov/aca website and in the related final regulations.

In general, beginning January 1, 2015, ALEs with at least 100 full-time and full-time equivalent employees must offer affordable health coverage that provides minimum value to their full-time employees and their dependents or they may be subject to an employer shared responsibility payment.  This payment would apply only if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit through enrollment in a state based Marketplace or a federally facilitated or Marketplace.  Also, starting in 2016 ALEs must report to the IRS information about the health care coverage, if any, they offered to their full-time employees for calendar year 2015, and must also furnish related statements to their full-time employees.

For 2014, the IRS will not assess employer shared responsibility payments and the information reporting related to the employer shared responsibility provisions is voluntary.  In addition, the employer shared responsibility provisions will be phased in for smaller ALEs from 2015 to 2016.  Specifically, ALEs that meet certain conditions regarding maintenance of workforce size and coverage in 2014 are not subject to the employer shared responsibility provision for 2015.  For these employers, no employer shared responsibility payment will apply for any calendar month during 2015 (including, for an employer with a non-calendar year plan, the months in 2016 that are part of the 2015 plan year). However these employers are required to meet the information reporting requirements for 2015, this is why understanding aca reporting is so important to a business.  The employer shared responsibility provision questions and answers section of the IRS.gov/aca website and the preamble to the employer shared responsibility final regulations describe the requirements for this relief in more detail.  Both resources also describe additional forms of transition relief that apply for 2015.

Small employers, specifically those with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees, may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit.

Regardless of the number of employees, if an employer sponsors a self-insured health plan, it must report to the IRS certain information about its health insurance coverage plan for each covered employee.

If you have questions about your responsibility as an employer, please feel free to contact us at Fox Peterson

Information from IRS tax tip 2014-21 was used in this posting.

Read More

Affordable Care Act

New IRS Publication Helps You Find out if You Qualify for a Health Coverage Exemption

Taxpayers who might qualify for an exemption from having qualifying health coverage and making a payment should review a new IRS publication for information about these exemptions. Publication 5172, Health Coverage Exemptions, which includes information about how you get an exemption, is available on IRS.gov/aca.

The Affordable Care Act calls for each individual to have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, have an exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.

You may be exempt if you:

  • Have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay for the annual premiums is more than eight percent of your household income,
  • Have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months, or
  • Qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage or belonging to a group explicitly exempt from the requirement.

On IRS.gov/ACA, you can find a comprehensive list of the coverage exemptions.

How you get an exemption depends upon the type of exemption. You can obtain some exemptions only from the Marketplace in the area where you live, others only from the IRS when you file your income tax return, and others from either the Marketplace or the IRS.

Additional information about exemptions is available on the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision web page on IRS.gov. The page includes a link to a chart that shows the types of exemptions available and how to claim them. For additional information about how to get exemptions that may be granted by the Marketplace, visit HealthCare.gov/exemptions.

Information from IRS Tax Tip 2014-19 was used in this posting

Read More

Helpful Tips for Dealing with the IRS

Disappearing “Service” at the IRS

Don’t expect much in the way of service from the IRS this filing season. Budget cuts have forced the agency to pare back on services that filers have relied upon in the past. Folks who call the IRS don’t have a great chance of speaking to a person, even after a wait of 20 minutes or more. And if you finally reach someone, you’ll get no help with complicated questions. The IRS will answer only basic queries, such as those regarding filing status, dependents and whether income is taxable. Those with tougher issues will be sent to IRS publications or its Web site.

It’s Not the IRS Calling

A phone scam is targeting taxpayers across the nation. Callers claiming to be IRS officials (and altering caller ID information to make it appear as if the IRS is calling) are telling their victims that they owe taxes and must pay up fast with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Unsuspecting victims are being threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of their driver’s license if they fail to comply. The fraudsters sometimes follow up with bogus e-mails, and often will use fake names and IRS badge numbers. Don’t be tricked. The IRS never makes unsolicited calls to people to tell them that they owe more taxes. The agency normally contacts people first by mail. And it doesn’t ask for personal or financial information via e-mail or on social media sites.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at www.FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov

Read More

Tax aspects of self-employment

Tax aspects of self-employment

When considering the decision to go into business for yourself (as a sole proprietor), there are several important rules and tax aspects to consider:

(1) For income tax purposes, you will report your income and expenses on Schedule C of your Form 1040. The net income will be taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. Your business expenses will be deductible against gross income (i.e., “above the line”) and not as itemized deductions. If you have any losses, the losses will generally be 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 able to deduct office-at-home expenses. If you will be working from an office in your home, performing management or administrative tasks from an office-at-home, or storing product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable portion of certain of the costs of maintaining your home. And if you have a office-at-home, you may be able to deduct commuting expenses of going from your home to another work location.

(3) You will be required to pay self-employment taxes. For 2014, you will pay self-employment tax (social security and Medicare) at a 15.3% rate on your net earnings from self employment of up to $117,000, and Medicare tax only at a 2.9% rate on the excess. An additional 0.9% Medicare tax (for a total of 3.8%) will be imposed on self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separate returns; 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.

(4) You will be allowed to deduct 100% of your health insurance costs as a trade or business expense. This means your deduction for medical care insurance won’t be subject to the limitation on your medical expense deduction that is based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income.

(5) You will be required to make quarterly estimated tax payments. We can work with you to minimize the amount of your estimated tax payments while avoiding any underpayment penalty.

(6) You will have to keep complete records of your income and expenses. In particular, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim the full amount of the deductions to which you are entitled. Certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, entertainment, meals, and office-at-home expenses, require special attention because they are subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations on deductibility.

(7) If you hire any employees, you will have to get a taxpayer identification number and will have to withhold and pay various payroll taxes.

(8) You should consider establishing a qualified retirement plan. The advantage of a qualified retirement plan is that amounts contributed to the plan are deductible at the time of the contribution, and aren’t taken into income until the amounts are withdrawn. Because of the complexities of ordinary qualified retirement plans, you might consider a simplified employee pension (SEP) plan, which requires less paperwork. Another type of plan available to sole proprietors that offers tax advantages with fewer restrictions and administrative requirements than a qualified plan is a “savings incentive match plan for employees,” i.e., a SIMPLE plan. If you don’t establish a retirement plan, you may still be able to make a contribution to an IRA.

If you would like any additional information regarding the tax aspects of your going into business, or if you need assistance in satisfying any of the reporting or recordkeeping requirements, please contact one of the professionals at Fox Peterson.

Read More

Home Office Deduction for Self-Employed Taxpayer

Home office expense deduction for self-employed taxpayer

If you’re self-employed and work out of an office in your home, and if you satisfy the strict rules that govern those deductions (discussed below), you will be entitled to favorable “home office” deductions—that is, above-the-line business expense deductions for the following:

  • the “direct expenses” of the home office—e.g., the costs of painting or repairing the home office, depreciation deductions for furniture and fixtures used in the home office, etc.; and
  • the “indirect” expenses of maintaining the home office—e.g., the properly allocable share of utility costs, depreciation, insurance, etc., for your home, as well as an allocable share of mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and casualty losses.

In addition, if your home office is your “principal place of business” under the rules discussed below, the costs of travelling between your home office and other work locations in that business are deductible transportation expenses, rather than nondeductible commuting costs. And you may also deduct the cost of computers and related equipment that you use in the home office, without being subject to the “listed property” restrictions that would otherwise apply.

Tests for home office deductions. You may deduct your home office expenses on tax Form 8829 if you meet any of the three tests described below: the principal place of business test, the place for meeting patients, clients or customers test, or the separate structure test. You may also deduct the expenses of certain storage space if you qualify under the rules described further below.

1. Principal place of business. You’re entitled to home office deductions if you use your home office, exclusively and on a regular basis, as your principal place of business. (What “exclusively and on a regular basis” means is not entirely self-evident. We can help you figure out whether your home office satisfies this make-or-break requirement.) Your home office is your principal place of business if it satisfies either a “management or administrative activities” test, or a “relative importance” test. You satisfy the management or administrative activities test if you use your home office for administrative or management activities of your business, and if you meet certain other requirements. You meet the relative importance test if your home office is the most important place where you conduct your business, in comparison with all the other locations where you conduct that business.

2. Home office used for meeting patients, clients, or customers. You’re entitled to home office deductions if you use your home office, exclusively and on a regular basis, to meet or deal with patients, clients, or customers. The patients, clients or customers must be physically present in the home office.

3. Separate structures. You’re entitled to home office deductions for a home office, used exclusively and on a regular basis for business, that’s located in a separate unattached structure on the same property as your home—for example, an unattached garage, artist’s studio, workshop, or office building.

4. Space for storing inventory or product samples. If you’re in the business of selling products at retail or wholesale, and if your home is your sole fixed business location, you can deduct home expenses allocable to space that you use regularly (but not necessarily exclusively) to store inventory or product samples.

Amount limitations on home office deductions. The amount of your home office deductions is subject to limitations based on the income attributable to your use of the home office, your residence-based deductions that aren’t dependent on use of your home for business (e.g., mortgage interest and real estate taxes), and your business deductions that aren’t attributable to your use of the home office. But any home office expenses that can’t be deducted because of these limitations may be carried over and deducted in later years. We can help you figure out how these limitations affect your home office deductions.

Sales of homes with home offices. If you sell—at a profit—a home that contains, or contained, a home office, the otherwise available $250,000/$500,000 exclusion for gain on the sale of a principal residence won’t apply to the portion of your profit equal to the amount of depreciation you claimed on the home office. In addition, the exclusion won’t apply to the portion of your profit allocable to a home office that’s separate from the dwelling unit or to any gain allocable to a period of nonqualified use (i.e., a period that the residence is not used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or his spouse or former spouse) after Dec. 31, 2008. Otherwise, the home office won’t affect your eligibility for the exclusion.

Read More

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2014 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 56 cents per mile for business miles driven 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

2014 Standard Mileage Rates

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2014 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business, medical, and moving expense rates decrease one-half cent from the 2013 rates.  The charitable rate is based on statute.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle.  In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

These and other requirements for a taxpayer to use a standard mileage rate to calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical, or charitable expense are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51.  Notice 2013-80 contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Read More

As a business owner, you should be aware that you can save family income and payroll taxes by putting junior family members on the payroll.

As a business owner, you should be aware that you can save family income and payroll taxes by putting junior family members on the payroll. You may be able to turn high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income, achieve social security tax savings (depending on how your business is organized), and even make retirement plan contributions for your child.

In addition, employing a child age 18 (or if a full-time student, age 19–23) may be a way to save taxes on the child’s unearned income, as explained below.

Here are the key considerations.

Turning high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income. You can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income by shifting some of your business earnings to a child as wages for services performed by him or her. In order for your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done by the child must be legitimate and the child’s salary must be reasonable.

For example, suppose a business owner operating as a sole proprietor is in the 36.9% tax bracket. He hires his 17-year-old daughter to help with office work full-time during the summer and part-time into the fall. She earns $6,100 during the year (and doesn’t have any other earnings).

The business owner saves $2,250.90 (36.9% of $6,100) in income taxes at no tax cost to his daughter, who can use her $6,100 standard deduction (for 2013) to completely shelter her earnings. The business owner could save an additional $2,029.50 in taxes if he could keep his daughter on the payroll longer and pay her an additional $5,500. She could shelter the additional income from tax by making a tax-deductible contribution to her own IRA.

Family taxes are cut even if the child’s earnings exceed his or her standard deduction and IRA deduction. That’s because the unsheltered earnings will be taxed to the child beginning at a rate of 10%, instead of being taxed at the parent’s higher rate.

Keep in mind that bracket-shifting works even for a child who is subject to the kiddie tax, which causes the child’s investment income in excess of $2,000 for 2013 to be taxed at the parent’s marginal rate. The kiddie tax has no impact on the child’s wages and other earned income.

The kiddie tax doesn’t apply to a child who is age 18 or a full-time student age 19 through 23, if the child’s earned income for the year exceeds one-half of his or her support. Thus, employing a child age 18 or a full-time student age 19–23 could also help to avoid the kiddie tax on his or her unearned income.

For children under age 18, there is no earned income escape hatch from the kiddie tax. But in all cases, earned income can be sheltered by the child’s standard and other deductions, as noted above, and earnings in excess of allowable deductions will be taxed at the child’s low rates.

What about income tax withholding? Your business probably will have to withhold federal income taxes on your child’s wages. Usually, an employee can claim exempt status if he or she had no federal income tax liability for last year, and expects to have none for this year. However, exemption from withholding can’t be claimed if (1) the employee’s income exceeds $1,000 for 2013, and includes more than $350 of unearned income (such as dividends) for 2013, and (2) the employee can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. Keep in mind that your child probably will get a refund for part or all of the withheld tax when he or she files a return for the year.

Social security tax savings, too. If your business isn’t incorporated, you can also save some self-employment (i.e., social security) tax dollars by shifting some of your earnings to a child. That’s because services performed by a child under the age of 18 while employed by a parent isn’t considered employment for FICA tax purposes.

For example, let’s say a sole proprietor who usually takes $120,000 of earnings from the business pays $5,700 to her 17-year-old child. The sole proprietor’s self-employment income would be reduced by $5,700, saving her $165.30 (the 2.9% HI portion of the self employment tax she would have paid on the $5,700 shifted to her daughter). This doesn’t take into account a sole proprietor’s income tax deduction for one-half of his or her own social security taxes.

A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA (unemployment) tax, which exempts earnings paid to a child under age 21 while employed by his or her parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting solely of his parents.

Note that there is no FICA or FUTA exemption for employing a child if your business is incorporated or a partnership that includes non-parent partners. However, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying a child for work you’d pay someone else to do, anyway.

Retirement benefits. Your business also may be able to provide your child with retirement benefits, depending on the type of plan it has and how it defines qualifying employees. For example, if it has a simplified employee pension (SEP), a contribution can be made for the child up to 25% of his or her earnings but the contribution cannot exceed $51,000 for 2013. The child’s participation in the SEP won’t prevent the child from making tax-deductible IRA contributions as long as adjusted gross income (computed in a special way) is below the level at which deductions for IRA contributions begin to be disallowed. For 2013, that figure is $59,000 for a single individual.

If you have any questions about how these rules apply to your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to call. Also keep in mind that some of the rules about employing children (such as the maximum amount they can earn tax-free) change from year to year, and may require your income-shifting strategy to change, too.

Fox Peterson Team

Read More