Our regularly updated newsletter provides timely articles to help you achieve your financial goals.
Reporting Virtual Currency Transactions
With the price of Bitcoin hitting record highs in 2017, many Bitcoin holders cashed out not realizing the impact it could have on their tax bill. Many people, for example, did not understand that it was a reportable transaction and found themselves with a hefty tax bill--money they may have been hard-pressed to come up with at tax time. Others may have been unaware that they needed to report their transactions at all or failed to do so because it seemed too complicated.
The good news is that if you failed to report income from virtual currency transactions on your income tax return, it's not too late. Even though the due date for filing your income tax return has passed, taxpayers can still report income by filing Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
Taxpayers should also be aware that forgetting, not knowing, or generally pleading ignorance about reporting income from these types of transactions on your tax return is not viewed favorably by the IRS. Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions can be audited for those transactions and, when appropriate, can be liable for penalties and interest.
In more extreme situations, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution for failing to properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions. Criminal charges could include tax evasion and filing a false tax return. Anyone convicted of tax evasion is subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Anyone convicted of filing a false return is subject to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Virtual Currency Taxed as Property
Virtual currency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value that functions in the same manner as a country's traditional currency. There are currently more than 1,500 known virtual currencies. Because transactions in virtual currencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently pseudo-anonymous aspect, some taxpayers may be tempted to hide taxable income from the IRS.
Virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes. The same general tax principles that apply to property transactions also apply to transactions using virtual currency such as:
What to do when your Tax Return is late
Tuesday, April 17, 2018, was the tax deadline for most taxpayers to file their tax returns. If you haven't filed a 2017 tax return yet, it's not too late, and it may be easier than you think.
First, gather any information related to income and deductions for the tax years for which a return is required to be filed, then call the office.
If you're owed money, then the sooner you file, the sooner you'll get your refund. If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can, which will stop the interest and penalties that you will owe.
If you owe money but can't pay the IRS in full, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return to minimize penalties and interest. The IRS will work with taxpayers suffering financial hardship. If you continue to ignore your tax bill, the IRS may take collection action.
How to Make a Payment
There are several different ways to make a payment on your taxes. Payments can be made by credit card, electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier's check, or cash. If you pay your federal taxes using a major credit card or debit card, there is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee. It is important to review all your options; the interest rate on a loan or credit card may be lower than the combination of penalties and interest imposed by the Internal Revenue Code.
What to do if you Can't Pay in Full
Taxpayers unable to pay all of the amount owed on a tax bill are encouraged to pay as much as possible. By paying as much as possible now, the amount of interest and penalties owed will be less than if you do not pay anything at all. Based on individual circumstances, a taxpayer could qualify for an extension of time to pay, an installment agreement, a temporary delay, or an offer in compromise. Please call if you have questions about any of these options.
For individuals, IRS Direct Pay is a fast and free way to pay directly from your checking or savings account. Taxpayers who need more time to pay can set up either a short-term payment extension or a monthly payment plan.
A short-term extension gives a taxpayer an additional 60 to 120 days to pay. No fee is charged, but the late-payment penalty plus interest will apply. Generally, taxpayers will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a longer period of time.
Most people can set up a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. A monthly payment plan or installment agreement gives a taxpayer more time to pay. However, penalties and interest will continue to be charged on the unpaid portion of the debt throughout the duration of the installment agreement/payment plan. You should pay as much as possible before entering into an installment agreement.
Taxpayers who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can apply for and receive immediate notification of approval through an online, IRS web-based application. Balances over $50,000 require taxpayers to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan.
A user fee will also be charged if the installment agreement is approved. The fee (effective January 1, 2017) is normally $225 but is reduced to $107 if taxpayers agree to make their monthly payments electronically through electronic funds withdrawal. The fee is $43 for eligible low-and-moderate-income taxpayers.
Individual taxpayers who do not have a bank account or credit card and need to pay their tax bill using cash, are now able to make a payment at one or more than 7,000 7-Eleven stores nationwide. Individuals wishing to take advantage of this payment option should visit the IRS.gov payments page, select the cash option in the other ways you can pay section and follow the instructions.
What Happens If You Don't File a Past Due Return
It's important to understand the ramifications of not filing a past due return and the steps that the IRS will take. Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions--including substantial penalties and fees.
Need Help Filing your 2017 Tax Return?
If you haven't filed a tax return yet, don't delay. Call the office today to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Selling your Small Business
Selling a small to medium-sized business is a complex venture, and many business owners are not aware of the tax consequences.
If you're thinking about selling your business the first step is to consult a competent tax professional. You will need to make sure your financials in order, obtain an accurate business valuation to determine how much your business is worth (and what the listing price might be) and develop a tax planning strategy to minimize capital gains and other taxes to maximize your profits from the sale.
Accurate Financial Statements
The importance of preparing your business financials before listing your business for sale cannot be overstated. Whether you use a business broker or word of mouth, rest assured that potential buyers will scrutinize every aspect of your business. Not being able to quickly produce financial statements, current, and prior years' balance sheets, profit and loss statements, tax returns, equipment lists, product inventories, and property appraisals and lease agreements may lead to loss of the sale.
Many business owners have no idea what their business is worth; some may underestimate whereas others overestimate--sometimes significantly. Obtaining a third-party business valuation allows business owners to set a price that is realistic for potential buyers while achieving maximum value.
Tax Consequences of Selling
As a business owner you probably think of your business as a single entity sold as a lump sum. The IRS however, views a business as a collection of assets. Profit from the sale of these assets (i.e., your business) may be subject to short and long-term capital gains tax, depreciation recapture of Section 1245 and Section 1250 real property, and federal and state income taxes.
For IRS purposes each asset sold must be classified as capital assets, depreciable property used in the business, real property used in the business, goodwill, or property held for sale to customers, such as inventory or stock in trade. Assets are considered tangible (real estate, machinery, and inventory) or intangible (goodwill or trade name).
The gain (or loss) on each asset sold is figured separately. For instance, the sale of capital assets results in capital gain or loss whereas the sale of inventory results in ordinary income or loss, with each taxed accordingly.
Depreciable PropertySection 1231 gains and losses are the taxable gains and losses from Section 1231 transactions such as sales or exchanges of real property or depreciable personal property held longer than one year. Their treatment as ordinary or capital depends on whether you have a net gain or a net loss from all your Section 1231 transactions.
When you dispose of depreciable property (Section 1245 property or Section 1250 property) at a gain, you may have to recognize all or part of the gain as ordinary income under the depreciation recapture rules. Any remaining gain is a Section 1231 gain.
Your business structure (i.e., business entity) also affects the way your business is taxed when it is sold. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLCs (Limited Liability Companies) are considered "pass-through" entities and each asset is sold separately. As such there is more flexibility when structuring a sale to benefit both the buyer and seller in terms of tax consequences.
C-corporations and S-corporations have different entity structures, and sale of assets and stock are subject to more complex regulations.
For example, when assets of a C-corporation are sold, the seller is taxed twice. The corporation pays tax on any gains realized when the assets are sold, and shareholders pay capital gains tax when the corporation is dissolved. However, when a C-corporation sells stock the seller only pays capital gains tax on the profit from the sale, which is generally at the long-term capital gains tax rate. S-corporations are taxed similarly to partnerships in that there is no double taxation when assets are sold. Income (or loss) flows through shareholders, who report it on their individual tax returns.
As you can see, selling a business involves complicated federal and state tax rules and regulations. If you're thinking of selling your business soon, don't hesitate to call the office and schedule a consultation with a tax and accounting professional.
Self-Employed? Five Easy Ways to Lower your Tax Bill
If you're like most small business owners, you're always looking for ways to lower your taxable income. Here are five ways to do just that.
1. Deducting the Cost of a Home Computer
If you purchased a computer and use it for work-related purposes, you can take advantage of the Section 179 expense election, which allows you to write off new equipment in the year it was purchased if it is used for business more than 50 percent of the time (subject to certain rules).
2. Meal Expenses for Company Picnics and Holiday Parties
If you host a company picnic or holiday party--even if it is at your home--100 percent of your meal expenses are deductible. Prior to tax reform legislation passed in late 2017, 50 percent of your business-related entertainment expenses (with some exceptions) were generally deductible. Starting in 2018, however, entertainment-related expenses are no longer deductible. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call.
3. Deduct $25 for Business Gifts to Associates
Don't overlook the deductible benefit of business gifts during the holidays or at any other time of the year. As a self-employed individual, you can deduct the cost of gifts made to clients and other business associates as a business expense. The law limits your maximum deduction to $25 in value for each recipient for which the gift was purchased with cash.
4. Food Offered to the Public at a Trade Show
If you are a frequent trade show exhibitor (or you are in the business of "food"), you know that offering free food is a sure way to get people to visit your booth. Did you know it's also a tax write off? Typically associated with a promotional campaign, food offered to the public free of charge is 100 percent deductible.
5. Minimize your Tax Bill by Funding a Retirement Plan
As a self-employed small business owner, there are several retirement plan options available to you, but understanding which option is most advantageous to you can be confusing. The "best" option for you may depend on whether you have employees and how much you want to save each year.
There are four basic types of plans:
To make sure you are getting the most out of your financial future, contact the office to determine your eligibility and to figure out which plan is best for your tax situation.
Using a Car for Business: New Rules under TCJA
Many of the tax provisions under tax reform were favorable to small business owners including those relating to using a car for business. Here's what you need to know.
1. Section 179 Expense DeductionIf you bought a new car in 2018 and use it more 50 percent for business use, you can take advantage of the Section 179 expense deduction when you file your 2018 tax return. Under Section 179 you can immediately deduct (rather than depreciating) the cost of certain property in the year it is placed in service. In 2018, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1 million of the first $2,500,000 million of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. It is indexed to inflation for tax years after 2018.
For sport utility vehicles (defined as four-wheeled passenger automobiles between 6,000 and 14,000 pounds), however, the maximum deduction is $25,000 (also indexed for inflation). Certain exceptions may apply, however such as a seating capacity of more than nine persons behind the driver's seat. Vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds are typically considered "work vehicles" and would not be used for personal reasons. As such, there is no expense deduction limit.
2. Luxury Auto Depreciation Allowance
For luxury passenger automobiles placed in service after December 31, 2017, the amount of allowable depreciation increases to a maximum of $10,000. The deduction increases to $16,000 for the second year, then decreases to $9,600 for the third year and $5,760 for the fourth year and for years beyond. These dollar amounts are indexed for inflation. Deductions are based on a percentage of business use; i.e., a business owner whose business use of the vehicle is 100 percent can take a larger deduction than one whose business use of a car is only 50 percent.
3. Additional First-Year Bonus Depreciation for Passenger Vehicles
For passenger autos eligible for the additional bonus first-year depreciation, the maximum first-year depreciation allowance remains at $8,000. It applies to new and used ("new to you") vehicles acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and remains in effect for tax years through December 31, 2022. When combined with the increased depreciation allowance above, the deduction amounts to as much as $18,000.
4. 100 Percent First-Year Bonus Depreciation for Heavy Vehicles
For tax purposes, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is more than 6,000 pounds are treated as transportation equipment instead of passenger vehicles. Heavy vehicles (new or used) placed into service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, qualify for a 100 percent first-year bonus depreciation deduction as well, if business-related use exceeds 50 percent. These deductions are based on percentage of business use and vehicles used less than 50 percent for business are required to depreciate the vehicle cost over a period of six years.
5. Deductions Eliminated for Unreimbursed Expenses for Business use of a Car
Under tax reform miscellaneous itemized expenses were repealed. As such starting in 2018, if you are an employee who is required to use your own vehicle for business-related use and are not reimbursed for these expenses by your employer you are no longer able to claim a deduction for unreimbursed expenses for business use of a car on your tax return.
If you have any questions about business use of a car, don't hesitate to call the office.
Home Equity Loan Interest Still Deductible
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has resulted in questions from taxpayers about many tax provisions including whether interest paid on home equity loans is still deductible. The good news is that despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, 2017, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer's home that secures the loan.
Under the new law, for example, interest on a home equity loan used to build an addition to an existing home is typically deductible, while interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, such as credit card debts, is not. As under prior law, the loan must be secured by the taxpayer's main home or second home (known as a qualified residence), not exceed the cost of the home and meet other requirements.
New dollar limit on total qualified residence loan balance
For anyone considering taking out a mortgage, the new law imposes a lower dollar limit on mortgages qualifying for the home mortgage interest deduction. Beginning in 2018, taxpayers may only deduct interest on $750,000 of qualified residence loans. The limit is $375,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return. These are down from the prior limits of $1 million, or $500,000 for a married taxpayer filing a separate return. The limits apply to the combined amount of loans used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer's main home and second home.
For more information about deducting interest on home equity loans or the new tax law, please call.
Health Care Tax Credit Relief for Small Employers
Tax relief is available for certain small employers who provide health coverage to their employees and wish to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2017 and later years.
To qualify for the credit small employers must provide employees with a qualified health plan from a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace and may only claim the credit for two consecutive years.
This tax relief helps employers who first claim the credit for all or part of 2016 or a later taxable year for coverage offered through a SHOP Marketplace, but don't have SHOP Marketplace plans available to offer to employees for all or part of the remainder of the credit period because the county where the employer is located has no SHOP Marketplace plans.
As such, employers can claim the credit for health insurance coverage provided outside of a SHOP Marketplace for the remainder of the credit period if that coverage would have qualified under the rules that applied before January 1, 2014.
The notice does not affect previous transition relief for the credit that was separately provided for 2014, 2015, and 2016.
If you need help calculating the credit under these circumstances or would like more information on whether a county had or has coverage available through a SHOP Marketplace, please call.
Tax Tips: Obtaining Prior-Year Tax Information
Tax season may be over, but you still need to hang onto your tax returns and other tax records for at least three years. However, if the IRS believes you have significantly underreported your income (by 25 percent or more), or believes there may be an indication of fraud they have the authority to go back six years in an audit. Furthermore, some documents including those related to real estate sales should be kept for three years after filing the return on which they reported the transaction.
In certain instances, such as when filling out financial aid forms for college, you may be required to upload your tax documents from prior years. If you haven't kept copies of your tax returns, you can obtain them through the IRS, but you'll have to pay a fee for them.
If you need an actual copy of a tax return you can get one from the IRS for the current tax year and as far back as six years. The fee per copy is $50. Taxpayers can complete and mail Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return to request a copy of a tax return and mail the request to the appropriate IRS office listed on the form.
If taxpayers need information to verify payments within the last 18 months or a tax amount owed, they can view their tax account using the "View your account" tool on the IRS website. The tool is only available during certain hours, and your balance updates no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight. You will also need to allow 1 to 3 weeks for payments to appear in the payment history.
Ordering a Tax Transcript
Taxpayers who cannot get a copy of a prior-year return (and don't need an actual tax return) may order a tax transcript from the IRS. A transcript summarizes return information and includes AGI. They're free and available for the most current tax year after the IRS has processed the return, as well as the past three years.
When ordering a transcript it's important to plan ahead. Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request. Taxpayers who order by mail should allow 30 days to receive transcripts and 75 days for tax returns.
There are three ways for taxpayers to order a transcript:
If you need assistance obtaining prior year tax information, please call.
Sinai Combat Zone Tax Benefits Retroactive to 2015
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December 2017, members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard who performed services in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt can now claim combat zone tax benefits. As such, eligible service members may be able to exclude part or all of their combat pay from their income for federal income tax purposes. Excluding combat pay from a taxpayer's income can result in a lower tax bill. These combat zone tax benefits are retroactive to June 2015.
How Armed Services members can claim a refund
Service members who previously paid tax on this income may be owed a refund. They may file an amended tax return, Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Returnif they already filed a tax return for tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017.Combat pay received on or after January 1, 2018, will be correctly reported on any W-2 forms issued to any service member who serves in the Sinai Peninsula. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula in 2015, 2016, or 2017 can provide documentation of their service to their finance officer and ask for a Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement.
However, an eligible service member who is unable to secure a corrected Form W-2c may still claim the combat pay exclusion by attaching to their Form 1040X copies of official documents showing they served or worked in the Sinai Peninsula. These documents should indicate the area, theater or military operation and the approximate entry date.
Acceptable documents include military orders, letters of authorization (civilians), hospital discharge papers, discharge from active duty, official letterhead memorandum from a military department or civilian employer, or a request and authorization for temporary duty travel of Department of Defense personnel (civilians and military).
Electronic filing is not available and amended returns can only be filed on paper. Amended returns may take up to 16 weeks to process; however, within approximately three weeks after mailing an amended return, taxpayers can track the status online using the IRS "Where's My Amended Return?" feature.
Please contact the office if you would like more information about requesting a refund based on combat service in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Taxpayer Rights: Audits and the Right to Finality
An IRS audit is a review/examination of an organization's or individual's accounts and financial information to ensure information is reported correctly according to the tax laws and to verify the reported amount of tax is correct. IRS audits are conducted either by mail (e.g., you receive a letter in the mail that you must respond to) or through an in-person interview.
Taxpayers who have been audited or otherwise interacted with the IRS should know that they have the right to know when the IRS has finished the audit. Known as the right to finality, it is one of ten basic taxpayer rights--known collectively as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. All taxpayers dealing with the IRS are entitled to these rights. If you've been audited, here are seven things you should know about the right to finality.
1. Taxpayers have the right to know:
2. The IRS generally has three years from the date taxpayers file their returns to assess any additional tax for that tax year.
3. There are some limited exceptions to the three-year rule, including when taxpayers fail to file returns for specific years or file false or fraudulent returns. In these cases, the IRS has an unlimited amount of time to assess tax for that tax year.
4. The IRS generally has 10 years from the assessment date to collect unpaid taxes. This 10-year period cannot be extended, except for taxpayers who enter into installment agreements or the IRS obtains court judgments.
5. There are circumstances when the 10-year collection period may be suspended. This can happen when the IRS cannot collect money due to the taxpayer's bankruptcy, or there's an ongoing collection due process proceeding involving the taxpayer.
6. A statutory notice of deficiency is a letter proposing additional tax the taxpayer owes. This notice must include the deadline for filing a petition with the tax court to challenge the amount proposed.
7. Generally, a taxpayer will only be subject to one audit per tax year. However, the IRS may reopen an audit for a previous tax year, if the IRS finds it necessary. This could happen, for example, if a taxpayer files a fraudulent return.
If you have any questions about this topic, help is just a phone call away.
Getting Ready for Payroll in QuickBooks Online
Payroll is probably the most complex element of small business accounting. Not only are you directly responsible to your employees, but you also need to make sure you are handling everything related to benefits and payroll taxes correctly.
Whether you are switching from a manual system to QuickBooks Online, or you have just hired your first employee, you will soon discover that the site can make your payroll-related tasks much more organized and accurate--speeding up the process tremendously.
But before you start getting ready for your first payroll run, you have a lot of setup work to be done. Be sure to leave yourself time before those first paychecks are expected. This is not meant to be a payroll setup tutorial. While some step-by-step instruction is provided, initially, we just want you to see what information you will need to have available and how QuickBooks Online handles it.
Building a Backbone
There is no particular order set in stone for your payroll preparation tasks, although you will need to provide some background information about your company and its policies before you can start creating employee records.
QuickBooks Online does not walk you through the steps required; however, it does display a page with links to all of the data that you will have to enter. Click the gear icon in the upper right, and then click Payroll Settings. You will see this screen:
Figure 1: QuickBooks Online's Payroll Settings screen displays links to the pages where you will manage your setup tasks.
You would have entered information about your Contact Information and Work Locations (under the Business Information heading) when you first signed on to QuickBooks Online. At the same time, you would have been exposed to the Chart of Accounts, which already has accounts designated for payroll. You can see them by clicking Preferences | Accounting, but please do not customize these. If modifications are needed, we will do them for you.
How often will you pay your employees? Go up to the Payroll heading in the upper left and click on Pay Schedules. Click Createand open the drop-down list next to Pay Period to select the frequency desired. Then enter the date for the first payroll you will run in QuickBooks Online and the end date for the period that it covers. Click the box below if you want this to be the default setting for all employees. Then click OK to return to the previous page.
Open the Vacation and Sick Leave Policies window. If you do not yet have accrual rules for these paid days off, let us help you here. It is complicated. When you are done, click the back arrow to return to the Pay Policies window and select Deductions/Contributions. Are you offering benefits like health insurance? You will need to have your paperwork and information handy before you start completing this section.
Figure 2: Before you can pay employees, you will need to have entered information about the benefits you offer so you can withhold dollars for them.
Click the plus sign (+) in front of Add a New Deduction/Contribution and complete the fields here, then click OK. You will assign these deductions to employees on their individual records in QuickBooks Online. If there are any Employee Garnishments needed (like child support), click the down arrow next to Add Garnishment for and select the worker from the list. You will provide details for these in the window that opens. This information was most likely provided to you by the agency requesting it. When you are done, click OK.
Taxes and More
If you are new to payroll and have never dealt with payroll taxes before, you are going to need our help getting this complicated element set up correctly. Even if you have, we would recommend that you call and set up a consultation with one of the QuickBooks Online experts in the office. QuickBooks Online does a good job of providing guidance here, but failure to submit payroll taxes (or pay them incorrectly) can lead to penalties and fines--or worse.
In addition, there are other setup tasks you will need to complete, such as:
Setup is by far the most challenging part of processing payroll in QuickBooks Online. Once that is done, you will just be entering hours and making modifications. Please contact the office if you are planning to take this on or have any questions.
Tax Due Dates for May 2018
Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during April, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2018. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.
Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in April.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in April.
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