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.

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!

radioshow01Tune in on FM every Thursday at 2PM. And listen to past broadcasts here.


abmfm

April Ambrozy 11 10 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 11 28 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 12 05 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 12 12 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 12 19 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 12 26 17


abmfm

April Ambrozy 01 16 18

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.

Year-End Tax Checklist

Year-End Tax Checklist

Now is a good time to review your year-end tax situation while there is still time to act. Here’s a handy checklist to help you do that. There are details on “must-dos” to get the most out of your charitable donations. As the year draws to a close, there are several tax-saving ideas you should consider. Use this checklist to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity before the year is out.

Bullet Point Retirement distributions and contributions. Make final contributions to your qualified retirement plan, and take any required minimum distributions from your retirement accounts. The penalty for not taking minimum distributions can be high.
Bullet Point Investment management. Rebalance your investment portfolio, and take any final investment gains and losses. Capital losses can be used to net against your capital gains. You can also take up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains each year and use it to lower your taxable ordinary income.
Bullet Point Last-minute charitable giving. Make a late-year charitable donation. Even better, make the donation with appreciated stock you’ve owned more than a year. You often can make a larger donation and get a larger deduction without paying capital gains taxes.
Bullet Point Noncash donation opportunity. Gather up noncash items for donation, document the items, and give those in good condition to your favorite charity. Make sure you get a receipt from the charity, and take a photo of the items donated.
Bullet Point Gifts to dependents and others. You may provide gifts to an individual of up to $14,000 per year in total. Remember that all gifts given (birthdays, holidays, etc.) count toward the annual total.
Bullet Point Organize records now. Start collecting and organizing your end-of-year tax records. Estimate your tax liability and make any required estimated tax payments.

 

 

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.