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.

 

 

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.

Save More in 2018

Retirement contribution and Social Security limits on the rise

The maximum contribution to 401(k) accounts rises by $500 in 2018, the first increase in three years. If you have not already done so, now is the time to plan for contributions into your retirement accounts in 2018.

Retirement Contribution Limits
Retirement Program 2018 2017 Change Age 50 or
over catch up
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans
$18,500
$18,000
+$500 add: $6,000
IRA: Roth
$5,500
$5,500
none add: $1,000
IRA: SIMPLE
$12,500
$12,500
none add: $3,000
IRA: Traditional
$5,500
$5,500
none add: $1,000
Social Security
Item 2018 2017 Change
Wages subject to Social Security
$128,700
$127,200
+$1,500 Annual Social Security employee tax: $7,979.40
Average estimated monthly retirement benefit
$1,404
$1,360
+$44

Don’t forget to account for any matching programs offered by your employer as you determine your various funding levels for next year.

New Year, New Job

Year-End Tax Checklist

Five tax tips for job changers

There are a lot of new things to get used to when you change jobs, from new responsibilities to adjusting to a new company culture. One thing you may not have considered are the tax issues created when you change jobs. Here are tips to reduce any potential tax problems related to making a job change this coming year.

One Don’t forget about in-between pay. It is easy to forget to account for pay received while you’re between jobs. This includes severance and accrued vacation or sick pay from your former employer. It may also include unemployment benefits. All are taxable but may not have had taxes withheld, causing a surprise at tax time.
Two Adjust your withholdings. A new job requires you to fill out a new Form W-4, which directs your employer how much to withhold from each paycheck. It may not be best to go with the default withholding schedule, which assumes you have been making the salary of your new job all year. You may need to make special adjustments to avoid having too much or too little taken from your paycheck. This is especially true if there is a significant salary change or you have a period of low-or-no income. Luckily, the IRS provides a withholding calculator on its website (IRS Withholding Calculator). Keep in mind you’ll have to fill out a new W-4 in the next year to rebalance your withholding for a full year of your new salary.
Three Roll over your 401(k). While you can leave your 401(k) in your old employer’s plan, you may wish to roll it over into your new employer’s 401(k) or into an IRA. The best way is to get your retirement funds rolled over directly between investment companies. If you take a direct check, you’ll have to deposit it into the new account within 60 days, or you may be assessed a 10 percent penalty and pay income tax on the withdrawal.
Four Deduct job-hunting expenses. Tally up your job-seeking expenses. If they and other miscellaneous deductible expenses total more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income for the year, you can deduct them on an itemized return. This includes things like costs for job-search tools, placement agencies and recruiters, and printing, mailing and travel costs. A couple caveats: you can only use these deductions if your expenses were to search for a job in the same industry as your previous job and you were not reimbursed for them by your new employer.
Five Deduct moving and home sale expenses. If you moved to take a new job that is at least 50 miles farther from your previous home than your old job was, you can also deduct your moving expenses. There’s another benefit for movers, too. Typically, you can only use the $250,000 capital gain exclusion for home sales if you lived in your primary residence for two of the last five years before you sold it. But there is an exception to the rule if you sold your home to take a new job.

Finding a new job can be an exciting experience, and one that can create tax consequences if not handled correctly. Feel free to call for a discussion of your situation.

Six Must-Dos When You Donate to Charity

Charity Donations Donations are a great way to give to a deserving charity, and they also give back in the form of a tax deduction. Unfortunately, charitable donations are under scrutiny by the IRS, and many donations without adequate documentation are being rejected.

Here are six things you need to do to ensure your charitable donation will be tax-deductible.

 

Bullet Point Make sure your charity is eligible. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations registered with the IRS are tax-deductible. You can confirm an organization qualifies by calling the IRS at (877) 829-5500 or visiting the IRS website.
Bullet Point Itemize. You must itemize your deductions using Schedule A in order to take a deduction for a donation. If you’re going to itemize your return to take advantage of charitable deductions, it also makes sense to look for other itemized deductions. These include state and local taxes, real estate taxes, home mortgage interest and eligible medical expenses over a certain threshold.
Bullet Point Get receipts. Get receipts for your deductible donations. Receipts are not filed with your tax return but must be kept with your tax records. You must get the receipt at the time of the donation or the IRS may not allow the deduction.
Bullet Point Pay attention to the calendar. Donations are deductible in the year they are made. To be deductible in 2017, donations must be made by Dec. 31, although there is an exception. Donations made by credit card are deductible even if you don’t pay off the charge until the following year, as long as the donation is reported on your credit card statement by Dec. 31. Similarly, donation checks written before Dec. 31 are deductible in the year written, even if the check is not cashed until the following year.
Bullet Point Take extra steps for noncash donations. You can make a donation of clothing or items around the home you no longer use. If you decide to make one of these noncash donations, it is up to you to determine the value of the donation. However, many charities provide a donation guide to help you determine the value. Your donated items must be in good or better condition and you should receive a receipt from the charitable organization for your donations. If your noncash donations are greater than $500, you must file a Form 8283 to provide additional information to the IRS. For noncash donations greater than $5,000, you must also get an independent appraisal to certify the worth of the items.
Bullet Point Keep track of mileage. If you drive for charitable purposes, this mileage can be deductible as well. For example, miles driven to deliver meals to the elderly, to be a volunteer coach or to transport others to and from a charitable event, can be deducted at 14 cents per mile. A contemporaneous log of the mileage must be maintained to substantiate your charitable driving.

Remember, charitable giving can be a valuable tax deduction — but only if you take the right steps.

 

 

Dos and Don’ts of Business Expensing

Home office deductions

Knowing whether you can or can’t expense a purchase for business purposes can be complicated. However, there are a few hard-and-fast rules to help you.

According to the IRS, business expenses must be ordinary and necessary to be deductible. That means they are common and accepted in your business, as well as helpful and appropriate. You’ll need to maintain records (such as statements and ledgers) and supporting documents (receipts and invoices) to substantiate your deductions. Certain expenses are subject to extra requirements, as described below.

Travel expenses pertain to business trips and can include transportation to and from airports, your hotel and business meeting places. They also generally include lodging, meals, tips and other related incidentals.

Do: + Maintain trip logs describing your business expenses and the purpose of each. If your trip is mostly for business but includes personal components, separate them in your log. These nondeductible personal items could include extending your stay for a vacation or taking personal side trips.
+ Deduct travel-related meal costs, but only up to the 50 percent limit allowed by the IRS.
Don’t: Rely on estimates to determine the business vs. personal components of your expenses.
Deduct any of your travel expenses if your trip is primarily for personal purposes.
Deduct any of your meal costs if they could be considered unreasonably extravagant.

Entertainment expenses need to be either directly related to or associated with the conduct of your business. That means that business is the main purpose of the activities and it’s highly likely you’ll get income or future business benefits. Expenses from entertainment that aren’t considered directly related may still be deductible if they are associated with your business and happen right before or after an important business discussion.

Do: + Keep records of entertainment expenses, including who was present and clear descriptions of the nature, dates and times of the pertinent business discussions.
+ Deduct up to 50 percent of entertainment expenses, as allowed by the IRS.
Don’t: Claim the costs of pleasure boat outings or entertainment facilities (e.g., hunting lodges) that are not related to business activity.

Business use of your personal car is calculated according to your actual business-related expenses, or by multiplying your business mileage by the prescribed IRS rate (53.5 cents per mile in 2017).

Do: + Log odometer readings for each business trip and record your business purpose.
+ Claim actual business deductions by applying the ratio of your business-miles-to-total mileage.
Don’t: Claim mileage or expenses pertaining to commuting to and from work.

If you have any questions about how to handle your business expenses, reach out for further guidance.

Contractor or Employee?

Company benefits

Knowing the difference is important

Is a worker an independent contractor or an employee? This seemingly simple question is often the contentious subject of IRS audits. As an employer, getting this wrong could cost you plenty in the way of Social Security, Medicare, and other employment-related taxes. Here is what you need to know.

 The basics…

 

As the worker. If you are a contractor and not considered an employee you must:

Bullet Point Employee Pay self-employment taxes (Social Security and Medicare-related taxes)
Bullet Point Employee Make estimated federal and state tax payments.
Bullet Point Employee Handle your own benefits, insurance and bookkeeping.

As the employer. You must ensure your employee versus independent contractor determination is correct. Getting this wrong in the eyes of the IRS can lead to:

Bullet Point Employer Payment and penalties related to Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Bullet Point Employer Payment of possible overtime including penalties for a contractor reclassified as an employee.
Bullet Point Employer Legal obligation to pay for benefits.

Things to consider

When the IRS recharacterizes an independent contractor as an employee they look at the business relationship between the employer and the worker. The IRS focuses on the degree of control exercised by the employer over the work done and they assess the worker’s independence. Here are some guidelines:

Bullet Point Consider The more the employer has the right to control the work (when, how and where the work is done), the more likely the worker is an employee.
Bullet Point Consider The more the financial relationship is controlled by the employer the more likely the relationship will be seen as an employee and not an independent contractor. To clarify this, an independent contractor should have a contract, have multiple customers, invoice the company for work done, and handle financial matters in a professional manner.
Bullet Point Consider The more businesslike the arrangement the more likely you have an independent contractor relationship.

While there are no hard-set rules, the more reasonable your basis for classification and the more consistently it is applied, the more likely an independent contractor classification will not be challenged.

Say Goodbye to the College Tuition Deduction

Mortarboard and money

It’s hard enough to watch your child leave for college. Now you also have to say goodbye to the tuition and fees tax deduction. Congress decided not to extend this $4,000 deduction for 2017, leaving many parents worried that college will now be more expensive.

But it isn’t as bad as it sounds. That’s because Congress left in place two popular education credits that often offer a more valuable tax break:

Bullet Point The AOTC. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is a credit of up to $2,500 per student per year for qualified undergraduate tuition, fees and course materials. The deduction phases out at higher income levels, and is eliminated altogether for married couples with a modified adjusted gross income of $180,000 ($90,000 for singles).
Bullet Point Lifetime Learning Credit. The Lifetime Learning Credit provides an annual credit of 20 percent on the first $10,000 of tuition and fees, for either undergraduate or graduate level classes. There is no lifetime limit on the credit, but only couples making less than $132,000 per year (or singles making $66,000) qualify. Unlike the AOTC, this deduction is per tax return, not per student.

So who is affected by the loss of the tuition and fees deduction? If you are paying for your student’s graduate-level courses and are making too much to qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit, the tuition and fees deduction was generally the only means you had to reduce your tax bill.

But there’s still hope! In addition to the two alternative education credits, there are many other tax benefits that reduce the cost of education. There are breaks for employer-provided tuition assistance, deductions for student loan interest, tax-beneficial college savings options, and many other tax-planning alternatives. Please call if you’d like an overview of the alternatives available to you.