Category: Get Balanced: Bookkeeping Made Easier

IRS Clarifies Deductible Expenses

Updated IRS rules offer guidance for deductible expenses which may have been murky as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

IRS provides guidance on deductible expensesThe rules being updated involve using optional standard mileage rates when figuring the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving expense purposes, among other issues.

The full details are available in Revenue Procedure 2019-46 and Revenue Procedure 2019-48.

There are more succinct rules to substantiate the amount of an employee’s ordinary and necessary travel expenses reimbursed by an employer using the optional standard mileage rates. But know that you’re not required to use this method and that you may substantiate your actual allowable expenses, provided you maintain adequate records.

Miscellaneous itemized deductions clarified

The TCJA suspended the miscellaneous itemized deduction for most employees with unreimbursed business expenses, including the costs of operating an automobile for business purposes. However, self-employed individuals and certain employees, armed forces reservists, qualifying state or local government officials, educators, and performing artists may continue to deduct unreimbursed business expenses during the suspension.

The TCJA also suspended the deduction for moving expenses. However, this suspension doesn’t apply to a member of the armed forces on active duty who moves pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station.

Entertainment vs. food & beverage expenses

The IRS has also made it clear that the TCJA amended prior rules to disallow a deduction for expenses for entertainment, amusement or recreation paid for or incurred after Dec. 31, 2017. Otherwise allowable meal expenses remain deductible if the food and beverages are purchased separately from the entertainment, or if the cost of the food and beverages is stated separately from the cost of the entertainment.

More resources from KRS

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What To Know About Getting a Tax Refund

Is your tax refund slow in arriving in your mailbox or bank account? One of these may be the culprit.

What To Know About Getting a Tax RefundIn a recent statement, the IRS noted that most taxpayers are issued refunds by the IRS in fewer than 21 days. If yours takes a bit longer, here are six things that may be affecting the timing of your refund:

  • Security reviews—The IRS and its partners continue to strengthen security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud. Your tax return may be receiving additional review, which makes processing your refund take a bit longer.
  • Errors—It can take longer for the IRS to process a tax return that has errors. Fortunately, electronic filing has reduced the number of errors, which are more common in paper returns.
  • Incomplete returns—Here again, electronic returns make the most sense. It takes longer to process an incomplete return. The IRS contacts a taxpayer by mail when more info is needed to process the return.
  • Earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit—If you claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit (ACTC) before mid-February, the IRS cannot issue refunds as quickly as others. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund. This includes the portion of the refund not associated with EITC or ACTC.
  • Your bank or other financial institutions may not post your refund immediately—It can take time for banks or other financial institutions to post a refund to a taxpayer’s account.
  • Refund checks by mail—It can take even longer for a taxpayer to receive a refund check by mail. Direct deposit is a better bet.

The IRS Explains

In an unusually poetic statement, the IRS explains that “tax returns, like snowflakes and thumbprints, are unique and individual. So too, is each taxpayer’s refund.” So keep this in mind. Fortunately, you can track your refund status online by entering your Social Security number and other key information.

KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed. Check it out today!

Form W-4: What Changed and Why it Matters

Form W-4 was revised after the 2017 Tax Reform Act. Here’s what you need to know to complete it accurately.

Form W-4 is completed by employees to advise their employers of the amount of federal income tax to withhold from their paycheck. Your employer will then remit the money withheld to the IRS along with your name and social security number. The tax withheld will be applied against your total income tax liability when you file your tax return in April.Form W-4: What Changed and Why it Matters

In the past this has been a relatively simple and straightforward form to complete. However, the Form W-4 has been changed as a result of the passing of the TCJA back in late 2017.

Revised W-4 adds more detail

The major factor here is that the passing of the TCJA has gotten rid of all personal and dependent exemptions which affects the necessary and required amount of tax that needs to be withheld from your paycheck.

The revised Form W-4 issued by the IRS was intended to assist employees in making a more accurate determination of their income tax withholding needs based on the tax law changes. This new form is more detailed and includes various sections of specific withholding related information to help guide employees in accurately calculating the proper withholding amount.

Page one of this form includes questions relating to the various sources of income you may have, dependents you can claim, and other income affecting adjustments. Step One involves providing general personal information as seen on the previous form. You will list your name, address, social security number, and filing status. The following steps two through four should only be completed if they apply to you.

Form W-4 Step One
Step Two is for persons who work multiple jobs and have working spouses. There are three different methods to accurately calculate what the proper withholding should be based on your situation. You will need to calculate the correct amount of withholding based on the income earned from all jobs.

Form W-4 Step Two
Step three accounts for certain tax credits associated with claiming dependents. Step four allows you to use your discretion to make any other adjustments to your withholding based on other income, deductions, and extra withholding that you may need to consider.

Form W-4 Step ThreeThese form changes have been implemented as a response to the withholding issues that arose during the first year of the new tax law changes.

We’ve got your back

Tax season is getting underway. Are you ready? Trust KRS CPAs to help you with your tax strategy and preparation. Contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to learn more.

Sources:

https://www.cicplus.com/w-4-changes-for-2020/
https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-dft/fw4–dft.pdf
https://www.staffone.com/resources/w-4-forms/

Adjusting Your Income Tax Withholding

Adjusting Your Income Tax WithholdingWhen should you revise your tax withholding?

If you receive a large refund from the IRS when filing your income tax return, or owe the IRS a substantial amount when filing, you should consider adjusting your income tax withholding.

Your income tax withholding is based on the number of allowances you claim on your Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. This form is typically filled out when you first start a job with your employer. This determines the amount of income tax that comes out of your paycheck each pay period.

If your withholding is too high, you are, in effect, giving the IRS an interest free loan. Although the overpaid tax will be refunded when you file your return, it would have been better for you to have access to these funds throughout the year. In this case, you should reduce the amount your employer withholds to increase your pay in your paycheck.

Do you owe the IRS too much?

On the other end, there are taxpayers who owe the IRS large balances when filing their taxes. Yes, they have access to their money all year long, but they will have to pay this back on April 15th. Most of the time, this repayment comes with tacked-on interest and penalties from the IRS.

It is your responsibility to change your withholding with your employer. At any time, you can provide them with an updated Form W-4 and adjust your withholding.

When to review your withholding

You should check your withholding anytime there is a significant financial change in your life, including the following:

– You getting married, divorced, or having children.
– Increase or decrease in working wages.
– You or your spouse start or stop working, start a second job.
– Changes in deductions such as: buying house, paying for child care, medical expenses.

It is never too late to change your withholding for the current year. If you believe that you may be substantially over or under withheld, you can make the necessary adjustments to correct that. This is one of the more complex issues that a taxpayer faces.

We’ve got your back.

If you think your situation calls for a withholding adjustment, please contact us today. Contact KRS manager Lance Aligo, CPA, MAS at [email protected] or 201-655-7411.

What to Know About the Qualified Business Income Deduction

Does your business qualify as a pass-through for tax purposes?

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve heard other business owners talking about the qualified business income deduction (also called Section 199A), you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I incorporate to help save on taxes?” and “What entity should I select?”

Qualified Business Income DeductionLots of business folks want to form an LLC because it can save you money on taxes, but there’s a caveat. The new tax law’s 20% deduction on qualified business income is subject to limitations that keep it from being just a giveaway for anyone who runs a business.

To qualify for the full deduction, your taxable income must be below $157,500, or $315,000 if you’re married and you and your spouse file jointly. If your income is below the threshold, you may take the deduction no matter what business you’re in. But if your income is higher, there are limits on who can take the break.

Some fine print about qualified businesses

  • What exactly is a qualified business? The IRS notes this break is for sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations, and some trusts and estates. C corporations are specifically excluded.
  • There are special rules and limits for “specified service trades or businesses.” The IRS defines these as businesses such as health, law, accounting, among others, “where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees or owners.”
  • The deduction doesn’t lower your adjusted gross income, and you don’t have to itemize on your taxes to take it.
  • If you qualify, the 20% break will apply to the lesser of your qualified business income or your taxable income minus capital gains.
  • There’s a wage and capital limitation: it is the greater of 50% of W-2 wages or 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of unadjusted basis of all qualified property. There is a 20% deduction of REIT dividends and distributions from publicly traded partnerships.
  • In counting qualified business income, the deductible part of self-employment tax, self-employed health insurance, and deductions for contributions to qualified retirement plans like SEPs, SIMPLEs and qualified plan deductions are included.
  • You have to decide how you should set up your business. As noted above, multiple entities are eligible for the pass-through treatment, but there are other implications you need to consider, such as how Social Security taxes will be paid.
  • Finally, don’t assume that the creation of a pass-through entity automatically creates a windfall. You’ll want to weigh how much you’ll save on taxes versus how much you’ll pay to set up an eligible entity.

How can you optimize the deduction?

Here are a few ways:

  • Consider operating as a PTP, or publicly traded partnership, which is not subject to the W-2 wage limit or the qualified property cap.
  • Consider multiplying the $157,500 per person threshold by gifting business ownership interest to children or non-grantor trusts.
  • For partners, consider switching from guaranteed payments, which don’t qualify, to preferred returns, which do.

This is just an introduction to a complex topic. Also, new guidance from the IRS may change some of the details, which means many provisions are not etched in stone. For example, the IRS issued in late September Revenue Procedure 2019-38, which offers a safe harbor allowing certain interests in rental real estate, including interests in mixed-use property, to be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the QBI deduction, under Section 199A.

KRS has your back on understanding pass-through entities

Be sure to get professional advice to make sure you’re making the right decisions about your pass-through entity. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you with this complicated subject. Contact us today for a complimentary initial consultation.

KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed. Check it out today!

How to Avoid the Top 10 Estate Planning Errors

Myths and misconceptions about estate planning abound.

Here are the most common mistakes to avoid and help your family save thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes and probate fees:How to Avoid the Top 10 Estate Planning Errors

  1. Beneficiary omissions — Not naming contingent beneficiaries or failing to review beneficiaries often enough. This may subject your estate to probate, creditors and delays.
  2. No stretch IRA — No contingent beneficiary on an IRA may mean there is no stretch IRA, a valuable tax break that enables someone who inherits an IRA to draw out distributions over his or her life expectancy if the original beneficiary has died.
  3. Forgetting to change an ex-spouse on an IRA — Your new spouse becomes your beneficiary the day you get married, but not in an IRA. This can have disastrous consequences for your new spouse and family.
  4. Leaving assets directly to a minor without dealing with guardianship issues — Who will handle their inheritance? The phrase “for their benefit” welcomes a whole host of potentially abusive interpretations.
  5. Ownership mistakes and imbalances — If too many assets are in one spouse’s name, it could wreak havoc with tax planning. One spouse may have a much larger IRA and own a vacation house in his or her name only. By shifting the house or investment to the other spouse, the estate becomes more equalized, possibly reducing taxes.
  6. Not having a residuary clause — A residuary clause covers items not named in a will or included in a trust. These can include items you don’t yet own but will before your death. Sometimes there are things you might not even know you own.
  7. Not planning for the unexpected — There are a multitude of things that could happen, such as a sudden decline in your spouse’s health or a change in your assets. You can address this by having assets go to a trust. You can control how, to whom, and when money gets distributed.
  8. Not dealing with your own mortality — Don’t leave your family ruined because you don’t want to admit to yourself you are going to die someday. Don’t make matters worse by failing to plan.
  9. Not updating your will — Many changes take place within a family or business structure. Ensure the assets you leave behind are given to the people you intended to have them.
  10. Not planning for disability — An unexpected long-term disability can affect your personal and financial affairs in many ways. Decisions such as who will handle your finances, raise your children, or make health care decisions on your behalf are essential. It may be necessary to appoint a power of attorney or create a living trust to work on your behalf if you’re unable to do it for yourself.

Estate plans maximize value

You can benefit from having an estate plan. Not only can it help maximize the actual value of the estate you pass on to your heirs and beneficiaries, but you’ll also have an opportunity to make informed decisions while you are still alive concerning how your assets should be handled when you pass.

KRS has your back on estate planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you realize your specific goals and vision. Contact us today for a complimentary initial consultation.

KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed. Check it out today!

How to Get a Business Loan

How do you begin your search for a business loan?

Applying for a business loan
Many banks and alternative lenders are out there vying for your attention. Once you decide on a lender, what’s next?

Here are the steps to obtaining your business loan:

Step 1. Determine why you need the money.

This will drive your choice of lender and loan type. Different kinds of loans can be used to:

  • Cover the costs of launching a business.
  • Help you buy an existing business.
  • Purchase specialized equipment.
  • Provide working capital for payroll, marketing and hiring.
  • Resolve cash-flow problems — often needed for a seasonal business.
  • Help you expand your business.
  • Refinance an existing loan at more favorable terms.

Step 2. Calculate how much financing you can afford.

Determine your debt service coverage ratio by looking into your finances. Take the following steps:

  • Use a business loan calculator to find the monthly payment on your loan before you commit.
  • Check out your company’s profit and loss statement. Will incoming revenue be enough to cover the monthly payment?
  • Determine your debt service coverage ratio or DSCR. Take your average monthly net income and divide it by your monthly loan payment. It should be above one. If it’s below, maybe a smaller loan with a better interest rate will work.

Step 3. Consider different loan products.

Consider the following options:

  • Bank loans — The cheapest financing option. Interest rates can be as low as 5%. There are some hurdles: You’ll need a great personal credit score, your business should be profitable and you’ll need personal or business assets to use as collateral.
  • SBA loans — Slightly more expensive than bank loans and easier to qualify for. Rates range from 5% to 10%.
  • Medium-term alternative loans — A faster online counterpart to SBA loans or bank loans. Interest rates may be as high as 20%, but you can get approval in less than two weeks.
  • Short-term alternative loans — Just three to 18 months to be repaid with daily or weekly repayments. Interest rates can be very high, but you’re paying for convenience and quick approval. These may be the best (or only) alternative you have if you’ve been in business for less than a year or you have a weak credit score.

Step 4. Get your loan documents in order.

This includes all your financial statements and tax documents. (Depending on your situation, you may need an audit, review or compilation.) No matter which options you choose, you’ll need paperwork to move forward.

  • Be aware the more difficult it is to qualify for the loan, the more paperwork is required.
  • Expect to be asked for your credit score, your average bank balance, how long you’ve been in business, your annual revenue, a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet, as well as personal and business tax returns.
  • Take into account costs, which may include application fees, origination fees, guarantee fees for SBA loans, credit check fees, prepayment fees for paying back the loan early, and late payment fees.

A final tip

This is just an introduction to a complex process. Getting a business loan is a big step, so whatever you do, be sure to get the advice of a financial professional before moving forward.

KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed. Check it out today!

How to Decode Box 1 of Form W-2

Here’s help for understanding how your compensation is handled on Form W-2

Box 1 of Form W-2 shows the employee’s total compensation that is subject to taxation for the year. Per an article published by Forbes, “This tends to be the number most taxpayers care about the most.” Consequently, there’s no room for error.How to Decode Box 1 of Form W-2

Below are inclusions and exclusions for Box 1 plus a brief explanation of the differences among Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5.

Learning these differences can help you decode your W-2 more easily.

What goes in Box 1?

All taxable wages, tips and other compensation should go in Box 1. This includes:

  • Hourly earnings, including overtime and premium pay, and salaries.
  • Vacation, sick, PTO and holiday pay.
  • Bonuses, commissions, prizes and awards.
  • Noncash payments, such as taxable fringe benefits.
  • Tips the employee reported to the employer.
  • Business expense reimbursements made under a non-accountable plan.
  • Accident and health insurance premiums for 2%-or-more shareholder employees if the company is an S corporation.
  • Taxable cash benefits under a Section 125, or cafeteria, plan.
  • Employer and employee contributions to an Archer Medical Savings Account.
  • Employer contributions for qualified long-term care if coverage is provided through a flexible spending arrangement.
  • Group-term life insurance that exceeds $50,000.
  • Taxable education assistance payments.
  • Any amounts you paid toward the employee’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Designated Roth 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) contributions.
  • Payments to statutory employees who are excluded from federal income tax withholding but not from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Insurance protection cost under a compensatory split-dollar life insurance arrangement.
  • Taxable employer and employee health savings account contributions.
  • Taxable amounts paid to a nonqualified deferred compensation plan.
  • Taxable moving expenses and expense reimbursements.
  • Compensation made to former employees who are on active military duty.
  • All other forms of taxable compensation, such as fellowship grants and scholarships.

What’s not in Box 1?

Box 1 should not contain:

  • Expense reimbursements — such as for transportation, lodging and meals — made under an accountable plan.
  • De minimis fringe benefits. These are occasional benefits with a value no more than $100.
  • Pretax contributions made to a retirement plan.
  • Pretax benefits, such as health insurance, flexible spending account and HSA offered under a Section 125 plan.
  • Other nontaxable wages and pretax benefits.

What are the differences among Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5?

  • Box 1 = Total taxable wages for the year.
  • Box 2 = Total federal income tax withheld from Box 1.
  • Box 3 = Total wages subject to Social Security tax.
  • Box 4 = Total Social Security tax withheld from Box 3.
  • Box 5 = Total wages subject to Medicare tax.
  • Box 6 = Total Medicare tax withheld from Box 5.

The total wages for Box 3 and Box 5 may differ from the amount in Box 1 because not all taxable wages are subject to the same taxes. For example, some wages are subject to federal income tax but not to Social Security and Medicare taxes, and vice versa. To accurately compute Box 1, Box 3 and Box 5, you must know which federal taxes should be withheld from the taxable wage in question.

We’ve got your back on taxes and compensation

If you’re interested in learning more about what you can and cannot deduct, or other ways to manage your taxescontact KRS today for a complimentary initial consultation.

 

Estate Planning for Those Under 40

The earlier you start planning, the more choices you’ll have

Get started on estate planning while you're young saves hassles laterWe all live as if we have decades ahead of us, dealing with the present — we can’t know the future. And that’s why now is a great time to get a jump on estate planning.

Do your family and loved ones know what accounts you have, where your financial information is and what your wishes are? Now is the time to tell them. If you start now, your plan will help keep your loved ones from becoming stressed if you suddenly become disabled or pass away.

Learning about estate planning

You can begin to educate yourself about estate planning. For instance, what should you be looking for in an estate planning attorney? You can interview several to see whom you feel most comfortable with. You can also explore estate planning strategies: Some organizations have free small-group events to share an understanding of the basics of estate planning.

You can start formulating how you’d want to be memorialized — how about creating a recording to share with your loved ones to help them by making the tough decisions in advance?

Getting started on your plan

Estate planning isn’t just for wealthy people — you don’t have to wait until you build up more savings. You may have a child or spouse who is financially dependent on you, so you don’t want to ignore your estate plan. Take these steps to be proactive:

  • Designate beneficiaries.
  • Designate a health care proxy to make medical decisions for you if you can’t.
  • Review asset titling — titling assets jointly with rights of survivorship is an easy way to ensure that your property passes to your heirs without delay.
  • Consider establishing a trust — in many ways these can be even more effective tools than wills.
  • Do some tax planning — although the federal estate tax affects only the wealthiest people, there are other tax issues, including state estate taxes.
  • Select guardians to care for minor children.
  • Plan ahead — an accident can result in an inability to make legal decisions; a durable power of attorney will name someone to act in your place if you are incapacitated.

Documents for your plan

Among the documents that are part of an estate plan, consider a will, life insurance, and a power of attorney. You can think of a will as a road map outlining how your property will be distributed if you’re disabled or die. Meet with an attorney and tell her or him what your assets are, who you want to leave them to, and that you want it all to be simple.

In crafting a will, name a trusted friend or family member as the executor to help shepherd your estate through any court-supervised process, such as probate. You may want to consider life insurance, particularly because you haven’t accumulated lots of money yet. You’d want your family to have assets to live on. You can choose a less expensive option such as a term policy for a set number of years.

We’ve got your back on estate planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you realize your specific goals and vision. Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

IRAs to Charity: A Useful Estate Planning Technique

Make your favorite charity a beneficiary of your IRAsSave taxes with this smart estate planning strategy

If you’re like many people, you have a great deal of your wealth tied up in traditional IRA accounts. Why? The tax-free benefits have motivated you. But there’s going to come a time when you—or your heirs—will have to pay taxes on this money. Instead of worrying about what you’re going to do about that, you can follow a tax-saving strategy that considers designating your favorite charity or charities as beneficiaries of all or a portion of your IRAs. Then you can leave other assets to family members and other heirs.

IRAs and estate taxes

Your IRAs are considered part of your estate when you die, which means they are subject to estate taxes. Although very few people are subject to the federal estate tax, some states have lower thresholds for estate taxes. Also, your heirs will have to eventually withdraw the funds, and typically will pay income tax. This could be substantial, if your heirs are already in a high bracket.

Fortunately, there’s a tax-smart solution: leave some or all of your IRA to charitable beneficiaries while leaving other assets to heirs of your choice. Leaving money directly to charities by designating them as account beneficiaries is very tax-efficient. First, it avoids estate tax, since the IRA is removed from your estate. Second, there’s no federal income tax due on IRA money. (You may get a state tax break too.) No income taxes are due when your favorite tax-exempt charities make withdrawals from the IRAs.

This strategy allows you to leave more to your favorite charities and more to your loved ones while keeping as much as possible from the IRS.

Leave Roth IRAs to your loved ones

One final word, however. This strategy generally applies to traditional IRAs. Naming a charity as the beneficiary of your Roth IRA is generally inadvisable. Leave Roth balances to your loved ones by designating them as account beneficiaries. Why? As long as your Roth IRA has been open for more than five years before withdrawals are taken, all withdrawals will be federal income tax-free since the money went in after taxes. But if you leave Roth IRA money to charity, this tax break is wasted. (Roth IRA inheritance rules differ from the rules for traditional IRAs in several key ways.)

Looking at the Big Picture

Of course, this is just part of your estate plan, and there are lots of complexities. A giving strategy that makes sense for one family may not be appropriate for another. Also, the new tax law has changed the scenario for many.  Finally, there are various limits and provisions you should be aware of before you proceed.

The bottom line? Talk to a qualified financial professional about your charitable goals and any traditional or Roth IRAs you have in order to take care of both your family and your designated nonprofits in as efficient a way as possible.

We’ve got your back on estate planning

It’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning. KRS CPAs offers unbiased financial and tax guidance to help you realize your specific goals and vision. Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.