July 2019 Business Due Dates

July 1 – Self-Employed Individuals with Pension Plans

If you have a pension or profit-sharing plan, you may need to file a Form 5500 or 5500-EZ for the calendar year 2018. Even though the forms do not need to be filed until July 31, you should contact this office now to see if you have a filing requirement, and if you do, allow time to prepare the return.

July 15 – Non-Payroll Withholding

If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 15 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in June.

July 31 –  Self-Employed Individuals with Pension Plans 

If you have a pension or profit-sharing plan, this is the final due date for filing Form 5500 or 5500-EZ for calendar year 2018.

July 31 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2019. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until August 12 to file the return.

July 31 – Certain Small Employers

Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2019 but less than $2,500 for the second quarter.

July 31 – Federal Unemployment Tax

Deposit the tax owed through June if more than $500.

July 31 – All Employers

If you maintain an employee benefit plan, such as a pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan, file Form 5500 or 5500-EZ for calendar year 2018. If you use a fiscal year as your plan year, file the form by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends.

July 2019 Individual Due Dates

July 1 – Time for a Mid-Year Tax Check UpTime to review your 2019 year-to-date income and expenses to ensure estimated tax payments and withholding are adequate to avoid underpayment penalties.

July 10 – Report Tips to Employer

If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during June, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than July 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

Issuing Credit Memos and Refunds in QuickBooks

You’re accustomed to money going in a certain direction, but sometimes you have to pay your customers. Here’s how it’s done.

QuickBooks is very good at helping you get paid by your customers. It comes equipped with customizable invoice templates for billing customers and sales receipts for recording instant sales. It supports online payments, so you can accept debit or credit cards and electronic checks. It simplifies the process of recording payments and it offers reports that let you keep track of it all.

There are times, though, when you have to issue a payment to a customer. QuickBooks provides forms that allow that transfer of funds: credit memos and refunds. Do you know when and how they should be used? Here are the basics.

Credit Memos

A credit memo is just what it sounds like. A customer returns an item for which they’ve already paid, and you have to credit him or her for its cost. This is the more complicated of the two and requires more bookkeeping, since you’re tracking the sale, its payment, and the return item. You can deal with the amount of the credit by:

  • Retaining the funds in the customer account.
  • Issuing a refund.
  • Applying it to the next open invoice.

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When you issue a credit memo to a customer, you have three options for returning the money they paid.

To create a credit memo, click Refunds & Credits on QuickBooks’ home page or open the Customers menu and select Create Credit Memos/Refunds. The Credit Memo window opens. Select the correct Customer:Job. In the line item section of the form, choose the merchandise returned in the Item column and enter a quantity. Repeat the process if more than one item was returned, then click Save & Close. The Available Credit window, pictured above, will open. Click the button in front of the option you want.

Select the first option if that’s what you want and click OK. The window will close, and the customer will have had that credit amount applied to his or her own account. You can see this in the Customer Center if you click on Customers in the navigation toolbar (or Customers | Customer Center). You can then either click on the Customers & Jobs tab and scroll down until you can highlight your customer’s record or click on Transactions | Credit Memos.

Click on Give a Refund to open the Issue a Refund window. Everything should be filled in here except for the payment method. If you select Cash from the Issue this refund via drop-down list and then pick the correct account from the list that opens, the refund amount will be subtracted from the account. Select Check and then the Account, and check the box in front of To be printed. That refund will be in the list the next time you open the File menu, then Print Forms | Checks. Choose a credit card and check the box in front of Process credit card refund when saving box to issue a credit card refund automatically.

Tip: Can’t work with credit cards because you don’t have a merchant account? We can help you set this up.

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The Issue a Refund window

If there is an open invoice, the Apply Credit to Invoices window will open, containing a list of unpaid bills. If there isn’t already a checkmark in front of the invoice you want to apply it too, click in the first column to create one. QuickBooks will tell you how much credit was applied and whether any remains. When you’ve checked the screen for accuracy, click Done.

Dealing with Overpayments

Let’s say a customer is catching up on multiple outstanding invoices and he or she sends you a check for the total but overpays you. Open the Receive Payments window by going to Customers | Receive Payments or clicking Receive Payments on the home page. Select the customer and enter the Payment Amount and Check #. QuickBooks will have put a checkmark in front of all the outstanding invoices listed to indicate they’ve been paid.

In the lower left corner, you’ll see a section titled Overpayment. The extra amount and your two options for dealing with it appear here. You can either credit the customer or issue a refund. Click the action you want to take, then save the transaction.

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If a customer overpays you, you can use QuickBooks’ built-in tools to credit him or her.

You can also issue refunds through the Write Checks window, but this is a more complicated procedure. It’s easier to process a credit memo.

If you’re at all unclear about what we’ve described here, please contact us for assistance. Refunds or credits that come through incorrectly (or not at all) can make customers very unhappy and may affect future sales. So, let us help you get it right the first time.

What If You Want To File Your Taxes But Can’t Afford To Pay Them?

It’s a common conundrum: You want to file your taxes on time, but you anticipate or already know that you will owe money you can’t afford to pay right now. As a result, you put off filing your tax return under the assumption that the IRS can only bill you if they receive your latest outstanding tax return that’s due.

If you want to file your taxes right now, you should!

Am I Required to File a Tax Return?

You may want to file a tax return, but you are not actually required to. Generally, the gross income filing requirement is based on the standard deduction plus personal exemption for your filing status. The IRS has a tool to determine if you are required to file a tax return based on your income alone. Notably, taxpayers who are married and filing separately have a gross income filing requirement.

Regardless of the total reported income on your tax return, there are other situations in which you must file a tax return. If you owe self-employment tax on net self-employment income of $400 or more, you are obligated to file a tax return. It’s easy to go past this amount if you drive for Lyft or Uber, are giving freelance work a try, or have any other form of self-employment income that nets out to $400 or more after your deductible expenses.

You also must file a tax return if you receive Affordable Care Act subsidies for your health insurance, and if you have any recapture payments such as the First-Time Homebuyer Credit. Any early distributions taken against an IRA or 401(k) also require you to file a tax return even if you had no other income, and the same is true if you reach age 70 1/2 during the tax year and were required to make required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement plan, but did not actually start these payments yet.

Even if you are not mandated to file a tax return, you may still want to file one to get a tax refund. If you aren’t due a tax refund, it’s still a good idea to have a tax return on file with the IRS. Tax returns are commonly requested when applying for a lease or mortgage, or to show proof of income and demonstrate ability (or inability) to pay for higher education and other important aspects of life that may arise.

Filing a Tax Return vs. Paying Your Actual Tax Bill

A common misconception is that you need to pay all taxes due when you file your tax return. While it’s prudent to do so, you are not actually required to. Filing your actual tax return is still the very first thing you should do no matter how much you owe, even if you’re filing it late. Doing so will prevent steep penalties from being incurred if you were required to file a tax return. Additionally, if you put off filing your tax return for too long, the IRS can file a substitute return that won’t apply any tax benefits and will make their assessment against you larger than it actually should be.

Even if you can’t afford to put anything toward your tax bill right now, the very least you should do is file your tax return before the deadline every year. If you want to file your taxes despite being unable to pay your bill right now, you can still do so.

Receiving an Automated Tax Bill  From the IRS

If you are unable to pay your taxes, you should still file a tax return without including payment. You can also include a partial payment of any size, even if it’s a small amount like $20. The IRS will not issue a judgment that quickly after you file your return, and even a small payment can help you save some money on interest.

If you do not pay your entire tax bill upon filing your return, the IRS will send an automated bill by mail. You can pay your balance before the bill arrives if you have the money to do so, but getting the bill in the mail doesn’t mean you are facing a lien against your bank account.

Interest will accrue on the unpaid balance as long as it goes unpaid, but owing money is a separate concept from filing your tax return on time, so you can and should file even if you can’t pay.

Hobby or Business? It Makes a Difference for Taxes – Now More than Ever

Article Highlights:

  • For-Profit Businesses
  • Not-for-Profit Businesses
  • Nine Determining Factors
  • Profit Presumption

Taxpayers are often confused by the differences in tax treatment between businesses that are entered into for profit and those that are not, commonly referred to as hobbies. Recent tax law changes have added to the confusion. The differences are:

Businesses Entered Into for Profit – For businesses entered into for profit, the profits are taxable, and losses are generally deductible against other income. The income and expenses are commonly reported on a Schedule C, and the profit or loss—after subtracting expenses from the business income—is carried over to the taxpayer’s 1040 tax return. (An exception to deducting the business loss may apply if the activity is considered a “passive” activity, but most Schedule C proprietors actively participate in their business, so the details of the passive loss rules aren’t included in this article.)

Hobbies – Hobbies, on the other hand, are not entered into for profit, and the government currently does not permit a taxpayer to deduct their hobby expenses but does require the income from the activity to be declared. (Prior to the changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, hobbyists were allowed to deduct expenses up to the amount of their hobby income as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A. Being able to take this deduction is suspended for years 2018 through 2025.) Thus, hobby income is reported on Schedule 1 of their 1040 and no expenses are deductible.

So, what distinguishes a business from a hobby? The IRS provides nine factors to consider when making the judgment. No single factor is decisive, but all must be considered together in determining whether an activity is for profit. The nine factors are:

(1) Is the activity carried out in a businesslike manner? Maintenance of complete and accurate records for the activity is a definite plus for a taxpayer, as is a business plan that formally lays out the taxpayer’s goals and describes how the taxpayer realistically expects to meet those expectations.

(2) How much time and effort does the taxpayer spend on the activity? The IRS looks favorably at substantial amounts of time spent on the activity, especially if the activity has no great recreational aspects. Full-time work in another activity is not always a detriment if a taxpayer can show that the activity is regular; time spent by a qualified person hired by the taxpayer can also count in the taxpayer’s favor.

(3) Does the taxpayer depend on the activity as a source of income? This test is easiest to meet when a taxpayer has little income or capital from other sources (i.e., the taxpayer could not afford to have this operation fail).

(4) Are losses from the activity the result of sources beyond the taxpayer’s control? Losses from unforeseen circumstances like drought, disease, and fire are legitimate reasons for not making a profit. The extent of the losses during the start-up phase of a business also needs to be looked at in the context of the kind of activity involved.

(5) Has the taxpayer changed business methods in an attempt to improve profitability? The taxpayer’s efforts to turn the activity into a profit-making venture should be documented.

(6) What is the taxpayer’s expertise in the field? Extensive study of this field’s accepted business, economic, and scientific practices by the taxpayer before entering into the activity is a good sign that profit intent exists.

(7) What success has the taxpayer had in similar operations? Documentation on how the taxpayer turned a similar operation into a profit-making venture in the past is helpful.

(8) What is the possibility of profit? Even though losses might be shown for several years, the taxpayer should try to show that there is realistic hope of a good profit.

(9) Will there be a possibility of profit from asset appreciation? Although profit may not be derived from an activity’s current operations, asset appreciation could mean that the activity will realize a large profit when the assets are disposed of in the future. However, the appreciation argument may mean nothing without the taxpayer’s positive action to make the activity profitable in the present.

There is a presumption that a taxpayer has a profit motive if an activity shows a profit for any three or more years within a period of five consecutive years. However, the period is two out of seven consecutive years if the activity involves breeding, training, showing, or racing horses.

All of this may seem pretty complicated, so please call this office if you have any questions or need additional details for your particular circumstances.

Household Help: Employee or Contractor?

Article Highlights:

  • Household Employee Definition
  • Employee Control Factors
  • Self-employed or Employee
  • Withholding Requirements
  • Reporting Requirements

Taxpayers often will hire an individual or firm to provide services at the taxpayer’s home. Because the IRS requires employers to withhold taxes for employees and issue them W-2s at the end of the year, the big question is whether or not that individual is a household employee.

Determining whether a household worker is considered an employee depends a great deal on circumstances and the amount of control the hiring person has over the job and the worker they hire. Ordinarily, when someone has the last word about telling a worker what needs to be done and how the job should be done, then that worker is an employee. Having a right to discharge the worker and supplying tools and the place to perform a job are primary factors that show control.

Not all those hired to work in a taxpayer’s home are considered household employees. For example, an individual may hire a self-employed gardener who handles the yard work for that individual as well as some of the individual’s neighbors. The gardener supplies all tools and brings in other helpers needed to do the job. Under these circumstances, the gardener isn’t an employee and the person hiring him/her isn’t responsible for paying employment taxes. The same would apply to the person hired to maintain an individual’s swimming pool or to contractors making repairs or improvements on the home.

Contrast the following example to the self-employed gardener described above: The Johnson family hired Maclovia to clean their home and care for their 3-year old daughter, Kim, while they are at work. Mrs. Johnson gave Maclovia instructions about the job to be done, explained how the various tasks should be done, and provided the tools and supplies; Mrs. Johnson, and not Maclovia, had control over the job. Under these circumstances, Maclovia is a household employee, and the Johnsons are responsible for withholding and paying certain employment taxes for her and issuing her a W-2 for the year.

W-2 forms are to be provided to the employee by January 31 of the year following the year when the wages were paid and the government’s copy of the form – sent to the Social Security Administration – is also due by January 31.

If an individual you hire is considered an employee, then you must withhold both Social Security and Medicare taxes (collectively often referred to as FICA tax) from the household employee’s cash wages if they equal or exceed the $2,100 threshold for 2019.

The employer must match from his/her own funds the FICA amounts withheld from the employee’s wages. Wages paid to a household employee who is under age 18 at any time during the year are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes unless household work is the employee’s principal occupation.

Although the value of food, lodging, clothing or other noncash items given to household employees is generally treated as wages, it is not subject to FICA taxes. However, cash given in place of these items is subject to such taxes.

A household employer doesn’t have to withhold income taxes on wages paid to a household employee, but if the employee asks to have withholding, the employer can agree to it. When income taxes are to be withheld, the employer should have the employee complete IRS Form W-4 and base the withholding amount upon the federal income tax and FICA withholding tables.

The wage amount subject to income tax withholding includes salary, vacation and holiday pay, bonuses, clothing and other noncash items, meals and lodging. However, if furnished for the employer’s convenience and on the employer’s premises, meals are not taxable, and therefore they are not subject to income tax withholding. The same goes for lodging if the employee lives on the employer’s premises. In lieu of withholding the employee’s share of FICA taxes from the employee’s wages, some employers prefer to pay the employee’s share themselves. In that case, the FICA taxes paid on behalf of the employee are treated as additional wages for income tax purposes.

A household employer who pays more than $1,000 in cash wages to household employees in any calendar quarter of either the current or the prior year is also liable for unemployment tax under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA).”

Although this may seem quite complicated, the IRS provides a single form (Schedule H) that generally allows a household employer to report and pay employment taxes on household employees’ wages as part of the employer’s Form 1040 filing. This includes Social Security, Medicare, and income tax withholdings and FUTA taxes.

If the employer runs a sole proprietorship with employees, the household employees’ Social Security and Medicare taxes and income tax withholding may be included as part of the individual’s business employee payroll reporting but are not deductible as a business expense.

Although the federal requirements can generally be handled on an individual’s 1040 tax return, there may also be state reporting requirements for your state that entail separate filings.

Another form that is required to be completed when hiring a household employee who works for an employer on a regular basis, is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. By the first day of work, the employee must complete the employee section of the form by providing certain required information and attesting to his or her current work eligibility status in the United States. The employer must complete the employer section by examining documents (acceptable documents are listed on the I-9) presented by the employee as evidence of his or her identity and employment eligibility. The employer should keep the completed Form I-9 in his or her records and make it available upon request of the U.S. government. It is unlawful to knowingly to hire or continue to employ an alien who can’t legally work in the United States.

If the individual providing household services is determined to be an independent contractor, there is currently no requirement that the person who hired the contractor file an information return such as Form 1099-MISC. This is so even if the services performed are eligible for a tax deduction or credit (such as for medical services or child care). The 1099-MISC is used only by businesses to report their payments of $600 or more to independent contractors. Most individuals who hire other individuals to provide services in or around their homes are not doing so as a business owner.

Please call this office if you need assistance with your household employee reporting requirements or need information related to the reporting requirements for your state.

How Does Combining a Vacation with a Foreign Business Trip Affect the Tax Deduction for Travel Expenses of a Self-Employed Individual?

Article Highlights:

  • Primarily Business
  • Primarily Vacation
  • Special Circumstances
  • Foreign Conventions, Seminars and Meetings
  • Cruise Ships
  • Spousal Travel Expenses

Note: effective for years 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 suspended the deduction of miscellaneous itemized expenses that must be reduced by 2% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. Employee business expenses, including travel expenses, fall into this category. Therefore, this discussion only applies to self-employed individuals for years 2018-2025.

When a self-employed individual makes a business trip outside of the U.S. and the trip is 100% devoted to business, all of the ordinary and necessary business travel expenses are deductible, just as if the business trip were within the U.S. On the other hand, if the trip also incorporates a vacation, special rules determine the deductibility of the travel expenses to and from the destination; when the other business travel expenses, such as lodging, meals, local travel and incidentals, can be deducted; and when they must be allocated. So, whether you are just visiting one of our neighboring countries or traveling to Europe or even more exotic locales, here are some travel tax pointers:

Primarily Vacation – If the travel is primarily for vacation and only a few hours are spent attending professional seminars or meeting with foreign business colleagues, none of the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the general business location are deductible. Other travel expenses must be allocated on a day-by-day basis, and only the business portion is deductible.

Primarily Business – If the trip is primarily for business and meets one of the conditions listed below, the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business destination are deductible in full (same as for travel within the U.S.).

(1) The travel outside the U.S. is for a period of one week or less (seven consecutive days, excluding the departure day but including the day of return). In addition, all other ordinary and necessary travel expenses are fully deductible.

(2) Less than 25% of the total time outside the U.S. is spent on non-business activities. In addition, all other ordinary and necessary travel expenses are fully deductible. (If 25% of more of the total time is spent on non-business activities, a day-by-day allocation of all travel expenses between personal and business activities is necessary and only the business portion is deductible.)

(3) The individual incurring the travel expenses can establish that a personal vacation or holiday was not a major consideration. In addition, all other ordinary and necessary travel expenses are fully deductible.

(4) The taxpayer did not have “substantial control” over arranging the trip. (For self-employed taxpayers, who would generally have substantial control over the trip arrangements, this provision likely won’t apply.) In addition, all other ordinary and necessary travel expenses are fully deductible.

When determining what constitutes business and non-business time, business days include: days en route to or from the business destination by a reasonably direct route without interruption; days when actual business is transacted; weekends or standby days that fall between business days; and days when business was to have been transacted but was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Nonbusiness days are days spent on nonbusiness activities as well as weekends, holidays and other standby days that fall at the end of the business activity, if the taxpayer remains at the business destination for personal reasons.

Foreign Conventions, Seminars or Meetings – Tax law does not permit a deduction for travel expenses to attend a convention, seminar or similar meeting held outside of the North American area unless the taxpayer establishes that:

(1) The meeting is directly related to the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business, and
(2) It is “as reasonable” for the meeting to be held outside of the North American area as it is within the North American area.

The IRS defines “North American area” quite broadly and includes not just the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as you would expect, but also Bermuda, several countries in the Caribbean basin, U.S. possessions such as American Samoa and other Pacific island nations, and some Central American countries as well.

Cruise Ship Conventions – In order for a taxpayer to deduct the cost of attending a convention related to his or her trade or business on a cruise ship, the ship must be a U.S. flagship, and all the ports of call must be within the U.S. or its possessions. In addition, the maximum deduction is limited to $2,000 per attendee. Substantiation requirements include certain signed statements by both the taxpayer and an officer of the convention sponsor.

Spousal* Travel Expenses – Generally, deductions are denied for travel expenses for a spouse, dependent or employee of the taxpayer on a business trip unless:

  1. The spouse is an employee of the taxpayer, and
  2. The travel of the spouse, etc., is for a bona fide business purpose, and
  3. The expenses would otherwise be a deductible business travel expense for the spouse.*These rules also apply to a dependent or employee of the taxpayer.

Since a spouse, dependent or other individual who is an employee will be denied a deduction for business travel expenses in years 2018 through 2025, condition #3 can’t be met. This means that “spousal” travel expenses won’t be deductible for years 2018 through 2025.

However, the law allows a deduction for the single rate for lodging on qualified business trips, and frequently, there is no rate difference between one and two occupants. Thus, virtually the entire lodging expense for an accompanying spouse will be deductible. When traveling by car, the law does not require any allocation because the spouse is also traveling in the vehicle. Thus, if traveling by vehicle, the entire cost of the business-related transportation would be deductible. This would generally also apply to taxis at the destination.

As you can see, determining the tax deduction for a foreign business trip of a self-employed individual that is combined with a vacation can be complicated. If you need additional tax guidance or help planning such a trip, please give this office a call.

States’ SALT Deduction Workarounds Shot Down

Article Highlights:

  • Limit on Tax Allowed as an Itemized Deduction
  • States’ Attempted Workarounds
  • Supreme Court Ruling
  • Final Regulations
  • Notice 2019-12

The Treasury Department and the IRS have essentially shot down efforts by several states to help their residents circumvent the $10,000 cap on the itemized deduction for state and local taxes (SALT).

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), aka tax reform, was passed, it imposed a $10,000 limit on the SALT deduction; this limitation had a greater impact on the residents of states that imposed the highest taxes on their residents. As it turns out, the states with the highest taxes – income or property taxes, or a combination of the two – are all blue (Democratic) states; thus, many saw it as political retribution, causing some state leaders to seek a workaround.

Ultimately, several affected states, including New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, came up with similar schemes to skirt the $10,000 limitation. Here is how their workarounds were supposed to have worked.

  1. Federal tax law names state and local governments as qualified charities, thus allowing gifts to them to be deducted as a charitable itemized deduction.
  2. The states created charitable funds; in turn, a contributor to the fund would receive tax credits.
  3. The tax credits could then be used against contributors’ SALT liabilities on their state income tax returns or, in some cases, property tax bills. Effectively, taxpayers would get a charitable deduction for their tax payments.

However, the fly in the- ointment for these arrangements has turned out to be a 1986 Supreme Court ruling that says that if the taxpayer receives something in return (referred to as “quid pro quo” in legalese) for a contribution, the deductible portion of the contribution is reduced by the fair market value (FMV) of what is received in return for making the contribution.

This concept has been applied uniformly to all charitable contributions since the Supreme Court ruling, which is why many written substantiations from charities will include the FMV of items provided to the donor in return for the donor’s charitable contribution.

As a result, when the final tax regulations for the SALT limitation were issued, they followed the Supreme Court ruling and treated the tax credits provided in return for the contribution as “quid pro quo” and not allowable to deduct as a charitable contribution.

Since the states only allowed tax credits for a portion of the contribution, typically 85% to 90%, the portion not allowed as a tax credit on the state return can be deducted as a charitable contribution on the taxpayer’s federal return.

Fortunately for taxpayers, in the preamble to the final regulations, the Treasury indicated its concern that the regulations could create unfair consequences for individuals who had made a charitable contribution in return for tax credits. Consequently, simultaneously with releasing the final regulations, the IRS published Notice 2019-12 saying it intends to publish a proposed regulation to provide a safe harbor for certain individuals who make a charitable contribution in return for tax credits. Under the safe harbor, an individual may treat the portion of a state or local tax payment that is or will be disallowed as “quid pro quo” contributions. To qualify for the safe harbor, taxpayers must itemize deductions for federal tax purposes, and their total state and local tax liability for the year must be less than $10,000. Until the proposed regulations are issued, taxpayers may rely on Notice 2019-12. The following examples are based on those in Notice 2019-12.

Example #1 – The taxpayer makes a $500 payment to a local or state-run charity and receives a dollar-for-dollar credit against the taxpayer’s state income tax credit. The taxpayer’s state tax liability is $500 or more. For federal purposes, this $500 contribution can be treated as a tax payment, subject to the $10,000 SALT limitation. Without the safe harbor provision, the taxpayer would not be allowed any deduction for the $500 payment because the regulations require that the amount claimed as a charitable contribution must be reduced by the state credit amount, in this example $500 – $500 = $0.

Example #2 – The taxpayer makes a $7,000 payment to a local or state-run charity and receives a dollar-for-dollar credit against the taxpayer’s state income tax. Under state law, the credit may be carried forward for three taxable years. The taxpayer’s state tax liability for year 1 is $5,000. The taxpayer applies $5,000 of the credit against the year 1 state tax liability and carries the balance forward to year 2, when it is used against the taxpayer’s year-2 state tax liability. The taxpayer’s year-2 state tax liability exceeds $2,000. For federal purposes, the contribution is treated as a tax payment, with the $5,000 being treated as a year-1 tax deduction and the $2,000 treated as a year-2 tax deduction. Both the $5,000 and $2,000 are subject to the $10,000 SALT limitation.

Example #3 – The taxpayer makes a $7,000 payment to a local or state-run charity. In return for the contribution, the taxpayer receives a real property tax credit of $1,750, which is 25% of the contribution, and applies it to his $3,500 property tax bill. For federal purposes, the $1,750 is treated as a property tax payment, subject to the $10,000 SALT limitation. The balance of the contribution, $5,250, can be deducted as a charitable contribution.

If you have questions related to this issue or about the $10,000 limit on SALT deductions, please give this office a call.

How to Organize Spending Priorities for Your Newer Growth Startup

According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Bank, over 80% of all newly formed businesses that ultimately fail do so due to cash flow problems. If you needed a reason to believe that getting your spending in order and dedicating the time to drafting a proper budget for your new startup is important, look no further than that one.

If you take the time to properly budget now, you’re mitigating a significant portion of the risk you’re likely to face in the not-too-distant future. If you don’t, or worse—if you assume that you can just “make it up on the fly”—all you’re doing is setting yourself up for disaster. Therefore, if you truly want to make sure that you have the budget you need to continue to build the business you’ve always wanted, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

It Begins by Looking Inward, Not Outward

Maybe the most critically important thing for you to understand is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating a budget for your startup. Just as it’s fair to say that nobody does what you do quite like how you do it, that same unique quality must extend into the world of budgeting for your SMB.

Every business is different ‒ so while you can certainly look to some similar organizations for guidance and inspiration, be aware that their path is not one for you to rigidly follow. You need to start the process by taking a look at your long-term business goals ‒ where are you today, and where do you want to be in a year or five years from now? What are the steps you need to take to help you accomplish that? What are the mile markers you’ll need to hit along the way? Once you have the specific answers to these questions, then you can begin the process of figuring out what budget is most appropriate for your small business.

Once you contextualize everything through that lens, many of your priorities will easily reveal themselves. At that point, your job becomes making sure you’re spending money in a way that supports those goals first, and everything else second.

As your budget starts to come together, you can even use it as an opportunity to learn more about the business and the way it operates. Once you can better identify how much money you have on hand and where it’s going, you start to better understand things like:

  • The actual money you’re spending on labor and other materials necessary for your products and services.
  • Your overall costs of operations.
  • The level of revenue you’ll need to generate to support your business moving forward.
  • A realistic idea of how much money you can expect to make in terms of profit, and when.

So, as you work to come up with a budget that is more specific to your growth startup, you also begin to better understand how that startup works. At that point, you’re not just in a position to make accurate, informed decisions about things like hiring or materials spending ‒ you can also go back and reconfigure your budget to account for any trends or patterns that you’ve discovered. This cyclical process is also a great way to make sure that you always have the cash necessary to take advantage of opportunities as quickly as possible, even ones that you didn’t necessarily expect.

The “Day One” Budget

For the sake of an example, let’s say that you’re planning a budget for a business that hasn’t technically gotten off the ground yet. At that point, your priorities are a bit different as you’re essentially trying to make “Day One” possible. Again, every business is going to be different from the next. But having said that, there are a few key things you will want to focus on to make sure that your opening goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Facilities costs – Where, specifically, are you going to be doing business? Do you need to rent a storefront? Are you working out of a commercial office space? Will you need a warehouse or other logistical assets? Regardless of which one best describes your situation, you’ll need to think about things like security deposits, any cosmetic or structural changes you need to make to the building, and even things like signage.
  • Fixed assets – Also commonly referred to as “capital expenditures,” these are the things that your people are going to need to do the jobs you’ve asked of them. This includes thinking about purchases like work vehicles (if applicable). You also have to buy furniture and other equipment like computers (after all, your people need a place to work).
  • Materials and supplies – Costs in this category would refer to not only immediate needs like office supplies, but also those related to marketing and other promotional activities you might be engaged in. You’re going to need a steady stream of all of these items to hit the ground running.
  • Miscellaneous – These are all the other costs of physically opening a business that don’t fall into the other three categories. You’ll need to work with an attorney and likely a financial professional to make sure the back end of your business is in order. Depending on your industry, you may need things like licenses and permits—those cost money, too.

Remember: these aren’t necessarily the costs associated with running your business in the long-term. These are just the things you’ll need to take care of to make sure you’re prepared to open your doors in the first place.

Get Your Priorities in Order

From a longer-term point of view, another key thing you’ll need to do to organize your spending for your newer, growth-focused startup involves getting your priorities in order. Yes, expenses like those outlined here are going to remain important. But those are all about meeting short-term needs. To meet your long-term needs, you need to be judicious about where you spend your money and, more importantly, why.

For the best results, try to prioritize expenditures that actually generate revenue or some type of sizable return on investment in the future. If your startup depends on a particular piece of equipment in order to successfully churn out the product the company was founded on, it stands to reason that: A) buying that equipment and B) paying to maintain it and keep it in proper working order would be top priorities as you literally cannot function without it. The more products you can produce, the more you can sell—and thus the more revenue you can generate.

Go through all of your expenses and try to arrange things in order of importance. For the most part, the things that are absolutely necessary to avoid interrupting your business in any way are going to be at the top of your list.

As you move the order of certain budget items around, also be thoughtful of both the short- and long-term implications of that move. If you prioritize Factor A over Factor B, what chain of events could that cause? If you choose not to focus on computer maintenance and instead move funds elsewhere, what issues would that potentially cause? Are you in a business where slower or more outdated equipment would hurt productivity and your ability to serve your customers? Because if you are, that’s a move you might want to re-think.

Yes, creating the right budget and organizing your spending priorities for your newer startup can feel complicated and time-consuming, but this is absolutely one of those situations where “getting it done” is less important than “getting it right.”

If you feel as if you’re having a hard time completing something this essential on your own, we can help. Not only can we help create a budget that supports your startup as it exists today, but we can also guarantee that you’ll be ready for the business it becomes tomorrow, too.

School’s Out – Who Is Going to Take Care of the Kids?

Article Highlights:

  • Child Age Limits
  • Employment-Related Expense
  • Married Taxpayer Earnings Limits
  • Disabled or Full-Time-Student Spouse
  • Expense Limits

Summer has just arrived, and there is a tax break that working parents should know about. Many working parents must arrange for care of their children under 13 years of age (or any age if disabled) during the school vacation period. A popular solution — with a tax benefit — is a day camp program. The cost of day camp can count as an expense toward the child and dependent care credit. But be careful; expenses for overnight camps do not qualify. Also, not eligible are expenses paid for summer school and tutoring programs.

For an expense to qualify for the credit, it must be an “employment-related” expense; i.e., it must enable you and your spouse, if married, to work, and it must be for the care of your child, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister or stepsibling (or a descendant of any of these) who is under 13, lives in your home for more than half the year and does not provide more than half of his or her own support for the year. Married couples must file jointly, and both spouses must work (or one spouse must be a full-time student or disabled) to claim the credit.

The qualifying expenses are limited to the income you or your spouse, if married, earn from work, using the figure for whoever earns less. However, under certain conditions, when one spouse has no actual earned income and that spouse is a full-time student or disabled, that spouse is considered to have a monthly income of $250 (if the couple has one qualifying child) or $500 (two or more qualifying children). This means the income limitation is essentially removed for a spouse who is a student or disabled.

The qualifying expenses can’t exceed $3,000 per year if you have one qualifying child, while the limit is $6,000 per year for two or more qualifying persons. This limit does not need to be divided equally. For example, if you paid and incurred $2,500 of qualified expenses for the care of one child and $3,500 for the care of another child, you can use the total, $6,000, to figure the credit. The credit is computed as a percentage of your qualifying expenses; in most cases, 20%. (If your joint adjusted gross income [AGI] is $43,000 or less, the percentage will be higher, but it will not exceed 35%.)

Example: Al and Janice both work, each with earned income in excess of $40,000 per year. Janice has a part-time job, and her work hours coincide with the school hours of their 11-year-old daughter, Susan. However, during the summer vacation period, they place Susan in a day camp program that costs $4,000. Since the expense limitation for one child is $3,000, their child credit would be $600 (20% of $3,000).

The credit reduces a taxpayer’s tax bill dollar for dollar. Thus, in the above example, Al and Janice pay $600 less in taxes by virtue of the credit. However, the credit can only offset income tax and alternative minimum tax liability, and any excess is not refundable. The credit cannot be used to reduce self-employment tax or the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

If the qualifying child turned 13 during the year, the care expenses paid for the child for the part of the year he or she was under age 13 will qualify.

If you have questions about how the childcare credit applies to your particular tax situation, please give this office a call.