How to Navigate the World of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a phenomenon in which entrepreneurs raise money to fund their projects through the Internet, typically by obtaining small donations from a large number of people. An estimated $34 billion was collected using crowdfunding campaigns globally in 2015, and it’s expected to overtake the total amount of venture capital funding within the next several years.

Why crowdfunding?

In the past, an entrepreneur would pitch a creative idea to investors who put up the money. These investors could be a bank or venture capitalist providing a loan. Ultimately, it was a limited pool of people willing to take on financial risk to support an entrepreneur’s idea.

Crowdfunding goes directly to consumers over the Internet, asking them to donate a small amount of money to support a business or a creative project. The financial risk to each person is low, so the barrier to find funding for a project is also low.

Popular crowdfunding sites for business ideas and creative projects include Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe.

The good, the odd and the silly

One of the additional benefits of crowdfunding is that a creator can measure the strength of their idea merely based on the number of people who agree to contribute.

One of the most successful crowdfunding projects so far is by Chris Roberts, creator of the popular 1990 video game Wing Commander. He took to Kickstarter to promote his plans to create an ambitious successor to his first game, called Star Citizen. To date he’s raised more than $175 million. The game is still under development.

Then there’s the Coolest Cooler, which raised $13 million to make a multifunction cooler with built-in water-resistant speakers, an ice-crushing blender, LED lights and a USB charging port. More than 60,000 people thought this was a good idea.

Or consider Zach Brown, who raised $55,000 to make a single bowl of potato salad (he ended up throwing a huge potato salad party for his backers).

Tips to try it yourself

If you are going to try crowdfunding out yourself, here are a few suggestions from experts:

Two Do your research. See if your idea has been pitched before, and how well it did. This will give you an idea of what your competition is, and what worked (or didn’t) for others.
Three Plan your campaign. Plan everything from the initial pitch, to the progress updates, to the rewards and equity stakes you offer people in exchange for their investment.
Three Make frequent video updates. The most successful projects use compelling videos of the creators introducing their ideas, as well as updates showing progress underway.
Three Set your funding goal as low as possible. The way most sites work is that if you reach your minimum funding goal, you can keep the money, but if you fall even a dollar short, you get none. Set your goal low to successfully fund your project, but not so low that you can’t complete it. Angry backers asking for their money back is not a pleasant outcome.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your situation please feel free to call.

Taxes and Virtual Currencies

Virtual Currencies

What you need to know

Virtual currencies are all the rage lately. Here are some tax consequences you must know if you decide to dip your toe in that world.

The IRS is paying close attention

The first thing to know is that the IRS is scrutinizing virtual currency transactions, so if you live in the U.S. you’ll have to report your transactions in Bitcoins and the like. Despite some early misconceptions, virtual currency transactions can be traced back to their owners by governments and other cyber sleuths.

If you decide to use or hold virtual currencies, carefully report and pay tax on your transactions. Act as if you are going to be audited, because if you don’t, you just might be!

It’s property, not money

Note that the IRS doesn’t treat Bitcoin or other virtual currencies as money. Instead, they are considered property. That means that if you are paid in Bitcoin, you will have to report it as income based on its fair market value on the date you received it.

And, if you sell Bitcoin, you have to pay tax on your gain using the cost (basis) of when you received it. The IRS has said that if Bitcoin is held as a capital asset, like a stock or a bond, then you would pay capital gains tax. Otherwise, if it is not held as a capital asset (for example if it is treated as inventory that you intend to sell to customers), it would be taxed as ordinary income.

Example: Craig Crypto bought a single Bitcoin on Dec. 29, 2016 for $967. After holding it as an investment (capital asset) for more than a year, Craig sold his Bitcoin for $14,492. He reports and pays 15 percent tax as a capital gain on his profit of $13,525.

Be aware of the risk

In addition to the increased oversight by the IRS, virtual currencies are at risk of virtual theft with no recourse to a government agency like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures U.S. bank balances.

If you need help with any tax questions related to virtual currency transactions, don’t hesitate to call.

Your New Life as a Pass-Through Entity Owner

Pass-Through Entity Owner

An initial look at the new business deduction

If you are a small business owner, your planning could get a lot trickier after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). That’s because most small businesses have legal structures that are treated as pass-through entities for tax purposes, meaning they “pass through” their income to be taxed on owners’ Form 1040 individual tax returns. These entities include S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships.

On one hand, these kinds of businesses will benefit from the TCJA’s 20 percent reduction to the taxation of business income. On the other, the rules used to determine how much of that reduction each business gets are complex. Here are some tips to help find out where your business falls in the new structure:

Check Know your businesses’ QBI
QBI stands for qualified business income, which is generally your business net income other than income in the way of wage compensation. QBI is the basic figure you need to determine how much of the 20 percent reduction you get. It excludes business losses, as well as factoring in amortization and capitalized expenditures. QBI is determined separately for each business activity, not per taxpayer.The first simple threshold rule is:If your taxable income is less than $157,500 as an individual filer, or $315,000 as a married couple filing jointly, you can take the 20 percent deduction from your QBI.If your taxable income is higher than those levels, several other factors come into play. Buckle up and hold on, here is where it gets complex:
Check Know whether your profession matters

Several “specified service professions” are treated differently under the new rules. The list includes health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, accounting firms or “any trade or business where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners.”

If your business is in one of these professions, the 20 percent deduction starts to phase out to zero once your taxable income passes $157,500 as an individual filer or $315,000 as a married joint filer. The phaseout range before the reduction reaches zero is $50,000 for individual filers and $100,000 for married filers.

The phaseout range also determines how much of the next factor matters:

Check Know whether wage and capital limits matter

Once you go above the threshold, special wage and capital limits start to reduce your deduction.

The formula for calculating the wage and capital limits is based on the greater of 50 percent of the W-2 wages paid by your business, OR 25 percent of the W-2 wages, plus 2.5 percent of the unadjusted basis of all qualified property acquired by your business over the year.

These wage and capital limits are phased in over the threshold and apply in full after passing the $50,000 range for individual filers or $100,000 for married filers.

Bottom line: Get help

As you can see, the 20 percent deduction can be a great benefit, but taking it can get complex very quickly. If you are a small business owner, don’t try to do it yourself. The new rules apply for the 2018 tax year, so after you’ve wrapped up 2017 taxes under the old rules, reach out for a consultation to determine how to position your business under the new laws.

In the meantime, please be patient. The IRS has yet to publish guidance on the new rules.

New Tax Legislation Requires Planning

Seven Tax Reform Areas

Though many taxpayers appreciate the income tax cuts in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed late last year, others are skeptical that it will simplify their tax planning. With every simplification, there are many more tax issues that still require planning to realize extra tax benefits. Here are seven of them:

Point 2 Planning for all the moving parts
In many ways, the TCJA gives with one hand and takes away with the other. The “giving hand” provides a lower income tax rate structure and a higher standard deduction, while the “taking hand” gets rid of personal exemptions, suspends many itemized deductions and limits deductions that remain. There are many variables that determine whether you come out ahead or behind and a tax planning session can help you figure it all out.
Point 2 Getting creative and flexible about itemizing
Many itemized deductions remain the same, others were eliminated completely and some have new limits. For example, while charitable contributions are still a qualified deduction, there is now a $10,000 combined cap on state, local and property tax deductions. The new constraints mean considering creative solutions to maximize these deductions. One idea is to make better use of the donation of appreciated stock as part of your charitable giving.
Point 3 Dealing with new complexity in small business ownership
Small business owners and sole proprietors will have to do a complicated calculation to see how much of the 20 percent reduction to pass-through qualified business income they can take. It depends on your profession and your expenditures on capital and wages. This calculation can get complicated very quickly.
Point 4 Understanding the newly changed “marriage penalty”
The disadvantage for married couples within the tax code is still very much in place, but it is changing. For instance, the marriage penalty that had given unfavorable income tax rates to married joint filers when compared to single individuals goes away in the TCJA for most income levels. But it rears its head again in the $10,000 combined state, local and property tax limitation, which does not double for married joint filers. This is something you’ll have to plan around.
Point 5 Getting credit for your kids
There are many new tax benefits for parents in the TCJA. The child tax credit doubles to $2,000 and the phaseout threshold jumps to $400,000 from $110,000 previously for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500 per-person family tax credit. On top of that, distributions from 529 education savings plans can now be used to pay private school tuition for K-12 students.
Point 6 Adjusting to disappearing tax breaks
If your tax planning was built on any of the following expiring tax provisions, you’ll have to change your plan: personal exemptions; miscellaneous itemized deductions; home equity interest; alimony deductions (expiring in 2019); the additional child tax credit; theft and casualty losses; and the domestic production activity deduction (DPAD).
Point 7 Facing the old complexities
Many areas of the tax code remain largely the same and contain both potential pitfalls and opportunities to find tax savings: Managing capital gains and tax-loss harvesting; charitable activity deductions; and a tax-advantaged retirement strategy are just a few areas where you can unlock extra value with smart planning.

The big changes to tax reform this year may be disconcerting at first, but in change there is opportunity. After the dust settles on the 2017 tax season, get ready to take a detailed look at what 2018 tax reform means for you.

 

 

Tax Reform in 2018

2018Congress has passed tax reform that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. Here are some of the most important items in the new bill that impact individual taxpayers.

 

 

 

Point Reduces income tax rates. The bill retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.
Point Doubles standard deductions. The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions are suspended, as well as most additional standard deductions (except for the blind and elderly).
Point Limits itemized deductions. Many itemized deductions are no longer available, or are now limited. Here are some of the major examples:
  • Caps state and local tax deductions. State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 total for all property, income and sales taxes.
  • Caps mortgage interest deductions. Mortgage acquisition indebtedness interest will be deductible for no more than $750,000. Existing homeowners are unaffected by the new cap. The bill also suspends the deductibility of interest on home equity debt.
  • Limits theft and casualty losses. These deductions are now only available for federally declared disaster areas.
  • Removes 2 percent miscellaneous deductions. Most miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold are now gone.
Point Cuts some above-the-line deductions. Moving expense deductions get eliminated except for active-duty military personnel, along with alimony deductions beginning in 2019.
Point Weakens the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The bill retains the alternative minimum tax but changes the exemption to $109,400 for joint filers and the phaseout threshold to $1 million. The changes mean the AMT will affect far fewer people than before.
Point Bumps up child tax credit, adds family tax credit. The child tax credit increases to $2,000 from $1,000, with $1,400 of it refundable even if no tax is owed. The phaseout threshold increases sharply to $400,000 from $110,000 for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Also, dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500-per-person family tax credit.
Point Expands use of 529 education savings plans. Qualified distributions from 529 education savings plans now include amounts to pay tuition for students in K-12 private schools.
Point Doubles estate tax exemption. Estate taxes will apply to fewer people, with the exemption doubled to $11.2 million ($22.4 million for a married couple).
Point Reduces pass-through business taxes. Most owners of pass-through entities such as S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships will see their income tax lowered with a new 20 percent income reduction calculation.

Because major tax reform like this happens so seldom, it’s worth scheduling a tax planning consultation to ensure you reap the most tax savings possible during 2018.

April Ambrozy, Owner of @ambrozytax Twitter is live on All Business Media!

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Best Way to Avoid an Audit: Preparation

Avoid an AuditGetting audited by the IRS is no fun. Some taxpayers are selected for random audits every year, but the chances of that happening to you are very small. You are much more likely to fall under the IRS’s gaze if you make one of several common mistakes.

That means your best chance of avoiding an audit is by doing things right before you file your return this year. Here are some suggestions:

 

Check Don’t leave anything out. Missing or incomplete information on your return will trigger an audit letter automatically, since the IRS gets copies of the same tax forms (such as W-2s and 1099s) that you do.
Check Double-check your numbers. Bad math will get you audited. People often make calculation errors when they do their returns, especially if they do them without assistance. In 2016, the IRS sent out more than 1.6 million examination letters correcting math errors. The most frequent errors occurred in people’s calculation of their amount of tax due, as well as the number of exemptions and deductions they claimed.
Check Don’t stand out. The IRS takes a closer look at business expenses, charitable donations and high-value itemized deductions. IRS computers reference statistical data on which amounts of these items are typical for various professions and income levels. If what you are claiming is significantly different from what is typical, it may be flagged for review.
Check Have your documentation in order. Be meticulous about your recordkeeping. Items that will support the tax breaks you take include: cancelled checks, receipts, credit card and investment statements, logs for mileage and business meals and proof of charitable donations. With proper documentation, a correspondence letter from the IRS inquiring about a particular deduction can be quickly resolved before it turns into a full-blown audit.

Remember, the average person has a less than 1 percent chance of being audited. If you prepare now, you can narrow your audit chances even further and rest easy after you’ve filed.

Mileage Rates for 2018

The IRS recently announced mileage rates to be used for travel in 2018. The standard business mileage rate increased by 1 cent to 54.5 cents per mile. The medical and moving mileage rates also increased by 1 cent to 18 cents per mile. Charitable mileage rates remained unchanged at 14 cents per mile.

2018 Standard Mileage Rates
Mileage Rate/Mile
Business Travel 54.5¢
Medical/Moving 18.0¢
Charitable Work 14.0¢
Mileage Rates

Here are 2017 rates for your reference as well.

2017 Standard Mileage Rates
Mileage Rate/Mile
Business Travel 53.5¢
Medical/Moving 17.0¢
Charitable Work 14.0¢
Mileage Rates

Remember to properly document your mileage to receive full credit for your miles driven.

A Better Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

New Years Resolutions
Do this instead

If you’re like most people, you’ve adopted a set of New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Things like losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking, saving a certain amount of money and finding a new job are among the most common resolutions.

Also, if you’re like most people, you won’t keep them. Sociological research has shown only about 10 percent of resolutions are maintained more than a few months. Rather than setting resolutions for yourself this year, try this approach instead: adopt new habits.

Here’s why habits can be more useful than resolutions:

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One Habits get to the heart of the matter.

By focusing on habits, you are encouraged to address the root of a problem and the behaviors that cause it. If you want to lose weight, by focusing on your habits you will inevitably have to address how you eat and how you exercise. Addressing these root causes of weight gain brings you the benefit of better health long after you meet a specific weight goal.

Resolutions, on the other hand, are focused on end points and encourage short cuts. If all that matters is losing weight, you may try to get to your ideal weight as soon as possible by using drugs or fad diets that are unlikely to work long-term.

Two Habits avoid the feeling of failure.

Resolutions often drift into obscurity because you feel like a failure when the goals are unmet. Any setbacks or backsliding on the way are devastating, because you are that much further away from meeting your goal.

As soon as you practice a habit you feel like a winner. By eating a salad as part of a healthy eating habit, you get a positive feeling of achievement: “I’m doing something that’s good for me right now.” If you were focused on a weight loss resolution, eating a salad seems like a futile gesture: “I’m still ten pounds from my weight loss goal. How long do I have to keep eating like this?”

Three Habits avoid the letdown of success.

Strange as it may sound, achieving a resolution can be just as harmful as not achieving it. If you’re one of the 10 percent of people who achieve a resolution, you might be surprised that you feel let down afterwards. “Is that it? Is that all I’ve been working for?”

This famously happened to Alexander the Great, who set out to conquer the entire known world of the classical era. When he’d beaten everyone, Alexander supposedly “wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

With a focus on habits, you no longer get hung up on the goal line. Why not consider changing a habit or two? Perhaps the true feeling of success is practicing a positive habit over and over again, with no end in sight to the satisfaction it brings.

Credit Card Transactions Could Pose Audit Risk

Credit Card Transactions

What small businesses need to know

Small business owners beware: the IRS may more closely scrutinize reporting of credit card transactions after it was criticized for lax enforcement.

The IRS’ overseer, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), recently said the IRS had been missing opportunities to audit tax returns that had large discrepancies between income and the card payments reported on Forms 1099-K.

This means small businesses that accept credit, debit or gift card payments can expect to draw the attention of IRS auditors if there are material differences between what is reported on their tax returns and what is on their 1099-Ks.

Tax gap concern driving the scrutiny

TIGTA has estimated an underpayment of more than $450 billion in income taxes every year. In an effort to close this “tax gap,” it recommended the IRS focus on some of the larger or more obvious sources of underpayment.

One area TIGTA identified was on Forms 1099-K, where more than 20,000 taxpayers who received them had discrepancies of more than $10,000 on their returns. Calculating from this small sample size, there was at least a $200 million underpayment.

Who is impacted

If you have a business that accepts payment cards like debit cards or credit cards, you will probably receive a Form 1099-K from your payment processor. The form is also required for anyone who has $20,000 in card payments and 200 transactions or more per year. Examples of those who would receive Forms 1099-K include users of PayPal, sellers on Ebay and Etsy, cab drivers and any small business that accepts card transactions as a form of payment.

Here’s how you can prepare

Receiving a Form 1099-K and reporting it in such a way that the IRS is satisfied can be complicated. You could easily double-report your revenue from 1099-Ks out of an excess of caution. Or, you may not be disclosing your correct reporting of card income in a way that IRS audit programs are able to identify. It’s often best to get professional guidance to ensure your return does not stick out when the IRS tries to comply with the TIGTA request for more oversight.