Tax Tips for Businesses
If your business is engaged in a qualifying production activity you may be able to take a tax deduction for your U.S. based business activities. The deduction is limited to income arising from qualified production activities in whole or in part based in the United States. The following are qualified production activities.
Manufacturing based in the United States,
Selling, leasing, or licensing items that have been manufactured in the United States,
Selling, leasing, or licensing motion pictures that have been produced in the United States,
Construction services in the United States, including building and renovation of residential and commercial properties,
Engineering and architectural services relating to a US-based construction project,
Software development in the United States, including the development of video games.
If you have a business that falls into any of these categories and you are not looking at this deduction, you could be missing out on a valuable tax break. Contact us to see if this deduction is for you.
Have you just started a new business? Did you know expenses incurred before a business begins operations are not allowed as current deductions? Generally, these startup costs must be amortized over a period of 180 months beginning in the month in which the business begins. However, based on the current tax provisions, you may elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs paid or incurred. The $5,000 deduction is reduced by any start-up or organizational costs which exceed $50,000. If you want to deduct a larger portion of your startup cost in the first year, a new business will want to begin operations as early as possible and hold off incurring some of those expenses until after business begins. Contact us to help determine how you can maximize your deduction for start-up and/or organizational expenses. For additional information on what costs constitute start-up or organizational expenses, refer to IRS publication 535, Business Expenses.
It is generally accepted that people prefer to make a living doing something they like. A hobby is an activity for which you do not expect to make a profit. If you do not carry on your business or investment activity to make a profit, there is a limit on the deductions you can take. You must include on your return income from an activity from which you do not expect to make a profit. An example of this type of activity is a hobby or a farm you operate mostly for recreation and pleasure. You cannot use a loss from the activity to offset other income. Activities you do as a hobby, or mainly for sport or recreation, come under this limit. So does an investment activity intended only to produce tax losses for the investors.
The limit on not-for-profit losses applies to individuals, partnerships, estates, trusts, and S corporations. For additional information on these entities, refer to business structures. It does not apply to corporations other than S corporations. In determining whether you are carrying on an activity for profit, all the facts are taken into account. No one factor alone is decisive. Among the factors to consider are whether:
You carry on the activity in a business-like manner,
The time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable,
You depend on income from the activity for your livelihood,
Your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the start-up phase of your type of business),
You change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability,
You, or your advisors, have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business,
You were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past,
The activity makes a profit in some years, and
You can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.
Your business may be eligible to use the abbreviated Schedule C-EZ instead of the longer Schedule C when reporting business profit and loss on your federal income tax return, according to the IRS. That’s because the deductible business expense threshold for filing Schedule C-EZ of the Form 1040 is $5,000. This change allows an additional 500,000 small businesses to file the C-EZ rather than Schedule C.
Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business (Sole Proprietorship), is the simplified version of Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship).
Schedule C-EZ consists of an instruction page and a one-page form with three short parts — General Information, Figure Your Net Profit, and Information on Your Vehicle. The instruction page includes a worksheet for figuring the amount of deductible expenses. If that amount does not exceed $5,000, you should be able to use the C-EZ instead of Schedule C. Contact us to learn more!
Whether you are self-employed or an employee, if you use a portion of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction.
You can deduct certain expenses if your home office is the principal place where your trade or business is conducted or where you meet and deal with clients or patients in the course of your business. If you use a separate structure not attached to your home for an exclusive and regular part of your business, you can deduct expenses related to it.
Your home office will qualify as your principal place of business if you use it exclusively and regularly for the administrative or management activities associated with your trade or business. There must be no other fixed place where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities. If you use both your home and other locations regularly in your business, you must determine which location is your principle place of business, based on the relative importance of the activities performed at each location. If the relative importance factor doesn’t determine your principle place of business, you can also consider the time spent at each location.
If you are an employee, you have additional requirements to meet. You cannot take the home office deduction unless the business use of your home is for the convenience of your employer. Also, you cannot take deductions for space you are renting to your employer.
Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home used for business. Your deduction will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses. Please contact us for more!
If you’re trying to beat the tax deadline, there are several options for last-minute help. If you need a form or publication, you can download copies from the IRS Forms page under Tax Tools on our website. If you find you need more time to finish your return, you can get a five or six month extension of time to file using Form 7004, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, Other Returns. And if you have trouble paying your tax bill, the IRS has several payment options available.
The extension will give you extra time to get the paperwork to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You have to make an accurate estimate of any tax due when you request an extension. You can also send a payment for the expected balance due, but this is not required to get the extension. However, you will owe interest on any amounts not paid by the March 15 deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have paid less than 90 percent of your total tax by that date.
Are you expecting a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service this year? If you file a complete and accurate paper tax return, your refund should be issued in about six to eight weeks from the date IRS receives your return. If you file your return electronically, your refund should be issued in about half the time it would take if you filed a paper return — even faster when you choose direct deposit.
You can have a refund check mailed to you, or you may be able to have your refund electronically deposited directly into your bank account. Direct deposit into a bank account is more secure because there is no check to get lost. And it takes the U.S. Treasury less time than issuing a paper check. If you prepare a paper return, complete Form 8050, making sure that the routing and account numbers are accurate, and attach it to the corporation’s tax return. Note that Form 8050 may only be filed with the original Form 1120 or 1120S, and the corporation is not eligible to receive direct deposit if the receiving financial institution is a foreign bank, or foreign branch of a U.S. bank. Incorrect numbers can cause your refund to be misdirected or delayed. Direct deposit is also available if you electronically file your return.
You may not receive your refund as quickly as you expected. A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example, a name or identification number and Social Security number listed on the tax return may not match the IRS records. You may have failed to sign the return or to include a necessary attachment, such as Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Or you may have made math errors that require extra time for the IRS to correct.
Are you in the middle of a disagreement with the IRS? One of the guaranteed rights for all taxpayers is the right to appeal. If you disagree with the IRS about the amount of your tax liability or about proposed collection actions, you have the right to ask the IRS Appeals Office to review your case.
IRS Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, explains some of your most important taxpayer rights. During their contact with taxpayers, IRS employees are required to explain and protect these taxpayer rights, including the right to appeal.
The IRS appeals system is for people who do not agree with the results of an examination of their tax returns or other adjustments to their tax liability. In addition to examinations, you can appeal many other things, including:
Collection actions such as liens, levies, seizures, installment agreement terminations and rejected offers-in-compromise
Penalties and interest
Employment tax adjustments and the trust fund recovery penalty
Appeals conferences are informal meetings. The local Appeals Office, which is independent of the IRS office that proposed the disputed action, can sometimes resolve an appeal by telephone or through correspondence.
The IRS also offers an option called Fast Track Mediation, during which an appeals or settlement officer attempts to help you and the IRS reach a mutually satisfactory solution. Most cases not docketed in court qualify for Fast Track Mediation. You may request Fast Track Mediation at the conclusion of an audit or collection determination, but prior to your request for a normal appeals hearing. Fast Track Mediation is meant to promote the early resolution of a dispute. It doesn’t eliminate or replace existing dispute resolution options, including your opportunity to request a conference with a manager or a hearing before Appeals. You may withdraw from the mediation process at any time.
When attending an informal meeting or pursuing mediation, you may represent yourself or you can be represented by an attorney, certified public accountant or individual enrolled to practice before the IRS.
If you and the IRS appeals officer cannot reach agreement, or if you prefer not to appeal within the IRS, in most cases you may take your disagreement to federal court. But taxpayers can settle most differences without expensive and time-consuming court trials.
For more information on the appeals process, please contact us!
It’s a moment any taxpayer dreads. An envelope arrives from the IRS — and it’s not a refund check. But don’t panic. Many IRS letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
Each year, the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers to request payment of taxes, notify them of a change to their account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return. Each letter and notice provides specific instructions explaining what you should do if action is necessary to satisfy the inquiry. Most notices also give a phone number to call if you need further information.
Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office, if you follow the instructions in the letter or notice. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice, or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call so your account can be readily accessed.
Before contacting the IRS, review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return. If you agree with the correction to your account, no reply is necessary unless a payment is due. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Write an explanation why you disagree, and include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider. Mail your information along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice to the address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the IRS correspondence. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
Sometimes, the IRS sends a second letter or notice requesting additional information or providing additional information to you. Be sure to keep copies of any correspondence with your records. If you’ve received a notice and are confused about what to do next, please contact us and we can help!
When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations (up to 10% of taxable income) can add up to a nice tax deduction for your corporation.
Here are a few tips to help make sure your contributions pay off on your tax return:
You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates, the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo, or other games of chance. To be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations. Cash contributions must be substantiated by a bank record, or a receipt, letter or other written communication from the organization indicating the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. In addition, if the contribution is $250 or more, a written acknowledgement showing the amount of cash contributed, any property contributed, and a description and a good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services provided in return for the contribution or statement that no goods or services were provided in return for the contribution, is required. Non-cash contributions over $500 must be supported by an attachment to the return which states the kind of property contributed, along with the method used to determine its fair market value. Form 8283, Non-cash Charitable Contributions is required for contributions with a claimed value of more than $5,000. Contributions which exceed the 10% limitation can be carried over for five years.
Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and if donations to them are deductible. IRS.gov has an Exempt Organizations Select Check online tool to help you see if an organization is qualified. In addition, taxpayers can call IRS Tax Exempt/Government Entities Customer Service at 1-877-829-5500. Be sure to have the organization’s correct name and its headquarters location, if possible. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and governments are not required to apply for this exemption in order to be qualified. Alternatively, contact us for more information!
Tax Tips for Finance
Following are some generally recognized financial planning tools that may help you reduce your tax bill.
Charitable Giving – Instead of selling your appreciated long-term securities, donate the stock instead and avoid paying tax on the unrealized gain while still getting a charitable tax deduction for the full fair market value.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – If you have a high deductible medical plan you can open an HSA and make tax deductible contributions to your account to pay for medical expenses. Unlike flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), the contributions can carry over for medical expenses in future years.
ROTH IRAs – Contributions to a ROTH IRA are not tax deductible but the qualified distributions, including earnings are tax-free.
Municipal Bonds – Interest earned on these types of investments is tax-exempt.
Own a home – most of the cost of this type of investment is financed and the interest (on mortgages up to $1,000,000) is tax deductible. When the property is sold, individuals may exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married jointly) of the gain.
Retirement Plans – Participate in your employer sponsored retirement plan, especially if there is a matching component. You will receive a current tax deduction and the tax-deferred compounding can add up to a large retirement savings.
If you own a home, and you itemize your deductions on Schedule A, you can claim a deduction for the interest paid. To be deductible, the interest you pay must be on a loan secured by your main home or a second home (including a second home that is also rented out for part of the year, so long as the personal use requirement is met). The loan can be a first or second mortgage, a home improvement loan, or a home equity loan. To be deductible, the loan must be secured by your home but the proceeds can be used for other than home improvements. You can refinance and use the proceeds to pay off credit card debt, go on vacation or buy a car and the interest will remain deductible. There are other financial reasons for not wanting to do this but it will not disqualify the deduction.
The interest deduction for home acquisition debt (that is, a loan taken out after October 13, 1987 to buy, build, or substantially improve a qualified home) is limited to debt of $1 million ($500,000 if married filing separately). The interest deduction from your home equity loan is also not unlimited. You can generally deduct interest you pay on the first $100,000 of a home equity loan. Debt which you incurred to buy, build or substantially improve your home that is in excess of the $1 million home acquisition debt limit may also qualify as home equity debt.
In addition to the deduction for mortgage interest, points paid on the original purchase of your residence are also generally deductible. Taxpayers who are required to pay mortgage insurance premiums may also be able to deduct this amount subject to certain income limits. For more information about the mortgage interest deduction, see IRS Publication 936.
Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. The IRS says when you sell a capital asset, such as stocks, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain or a capital loss. While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property.
While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property. A “paper loss” — a drop in an investment’s value below its purchase price — does not qualify for the deduction. The loss must be realized through the capital asset’s sale or exchange.
Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold the property before you sell it. If you hold it more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term. For more information on the tax rates, refer to IRS Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess is subtracted from other income on your tax return, up to an annual limit of $3,000 ($1,500 if you are married filing separately). Unused capital losses can be carried over indefinitely to future years to net against capital gains, however the annual limit still applies.
Capital gains and losses are reported on Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, summarized on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and then transferred to line 13 of Form 1040. Accounting and planning for the sale and purchase of capital assets is usually a very complicated matter, so please contact us so that you may receive the professional advice you deserve.
A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is a savings account created as an incentive to help parents and students save for education expenses.
The total contributions for the beneficiary (who is under age 18 or is a special needs beneficiary) of this account in any year cannot be more than $2,000, no matter how many accounts have been established. The beneficiary will not owe tax on the distributions if, for a year, the distributions from an account are not more than a beneficiary’s qualified education expenses at an eligible education institution. This benefit applies to higher education expenses as well as to elementary and secondary education expenses.
Generally, any individual (including the beneficiary) can contribute to a Coverdell ESA if the individual’s modified adjusted gross (MAGI) income is less than an annual, constantly changing maximum. Usually, MAGI for the purpose of determining your maximum contribution limit is the adjusted gross income (AGI) shown on your tax return increased by the following exclusion from your income: foreign earned income of U.S. citizens or residents living abroad, housing costs of U.S. citizens or residents living abroad, and income from sources within Puerto Rico or American Samoa. Contributions to a Coverdell ESA may be made until the due date of the contributor’s return, without extensions.
If you haven’t contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) for last tax year, or if you’ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date for filing your tax return for last year, not including extensions.
One popular tax savings outlet available to taxpayers today is the Individual Retirement Account, more commonly referred to as an IRA. There are several options you have when deciding which type of IRA account to enter into. You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on whether you or your spouse, if filing jointly, are covered by an employer’s pension plan and how much total income you have. Conversely, you cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution.
Generally, you can contribute a percentage of your earnings for the current year or a larger, catch-up contribution if you are age 50 or older. You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these annual amounts (currently $5,500, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older).
You can file your tax return claiming a traditional IRA deduction before the contribution is actually made. However, the contribution must be made by the due date of your return, not including extensions. If you haven’t contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for last tax year, or if you’ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date for filing your tax return for last year, not including extensions.
Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for last year. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for this year, when they get your funds.
If you report a contribution to a traditional IRA on your return, but fail to contribute by the deadline, you must file an amended tax return by using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You must add the amount you deducted to your income on the amended return and pay the additional tax accordingly.
Confused about whether you can contribute to a Roth IRA? The IRS suggests checking these simple rules:
Income to contribute to a Roth IRA, you must have compensation (e.g., wages, salary, tips, professional fees, bonuses). Your modified adjusted gross income must be less than:
Age There is no age limitation for Roth IRA contributions. Unlike traditional IRAs, you can be any age and still qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA.
Contribution Limits In general, if your only IRA is a Roth IRA, the maximum current year contribution limit is the lesser of your taxable compensation or $5,500 ($6,500 for those age 50 or over). The maximum contribution limit phases out if your modified adjusted gross income is within these limits:
$186,000-$196,000 — Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying widow(er)
$0-$10,000 — Married Filing Separately (and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year)
$118,000-$133,000 — Single, Head of Household, or Married Filing Separately (and you did not live with your spouse)
Contributions to Spousal Roth IRA You can make contributions to a Roth IRA for your spouse provided you meet the income requirements.
* Note – threshold amounts listed above are for tax year 2017.