Author: Maria T. Rollins

Maria T. Rollins, CPA, MST

The IRS and Private Tax Debt Collection

To collect unpaid taxes, the IRS is turning to private companies.

IRS Using Debt Collection AgenciesThe growing backlog of debt has proved too much for the agency, which continues to use four debt collection companies to round up outstanding payments from taxpayers who’ve been contacted numerous times and still haven’t coughed up any cash.

The new private debt collection program originally started slowly, with just a few hundred taxpayers a week receiving mailings and subsequent calls. But now it’s in full swing, with thousands of people being contacted.

Taxpayers with long-overdue tax bills who’ve received several collection notices from the IRS through the mail are now being informed that their accounts have been transferred to private collectors. The collection agencies send letters of their own, clearly identifying themselves in all communications as working for the IRS.

Collectors Follow the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act

Of course, these new debt collectors need to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which spells out when they can call, whom they can call, and what they can and cannot say. The IRS has told the collectors not to use robocalls to contact taxpayers.

The new private debt collection program comes straight from Congress, which required this action, noting that it’s a way to fund road improvement projects for the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which was passed in 2015.

The four collection agencies are CBE Group, ConServe, Performant and Pioneer Credit Recovery. These agencies explain how they work. For example, Performant notes on its website how they work and lists official government sites for more information.

Protecting Yourself from Scammers

A problem jumps into anyone’s mind: how to tell the official debt collectors from the scammers. The IRS has noted that the it is urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. One sign is payment: Performant notes, for example, that it tells taxpayers to make checks out to the federal government, and not to the private agency.

So, how can taxpayers protect themselves from new scams? There are some simple ways to tell whether the call is legitimate or from a fraudster. It’s a scam if the caller does any of the following:

  • Is very aggressive or threatens you in any way with arrest or someone coming to your house.
  • Tries to pressure you to make immediate payment.
  • Asks for your credit or debit card information.
  • Requests payment via gift cards, including Amazon and iTunes, prepaid debit cards, or a wire transfer.

More information is available on the U.S. Treasury site.

We’ve got your back

Legitimate private debt collection firms will instruct taxpayers to send a check, made out to the U.S. Treasury, directly to the IRS. It’s always a good idea to check with us to keep up to date with the new program and the new scams that come from it. Of course, if you have an outstanding debt to the IRS, contact us immediately so we can help you with the process of paying the government what you owe. Don’t go it alone! Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

Medical and Dental Expenses: What Can You Deduct?

Can you deduct medical and dental expenses? That’s a complicated question.

Medical and Dental Expenses: What Can You Deduct?To start with, your deductions must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. And they have to fall into an IRS-approved category.

Deductible medical expenses may include, but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nontraditional medical practitioners.
  • Payments for inpatient hospital care or residential nursing home care, if the availability of medical care is the principal reason for being in the nursing home, including the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home. However, if medical care isn’t the principal reason for the nursing home stay, then the deduction is limited to medical care costs only.
  • Payments for acupuncture treatments or inpatient treatment at a center for alcohol or drug addiction, for participating in a smoking-cessation program, and for drugs to alleviate nicotine withdrawal that require a prescription.
  • Payments to participate in a weight-loss program for a specific disease or diseases diagnosed by a physician, including obesity; but not ordinarily payments for diet food items or the payment of health club dues.
  • Payments for insulin and payments for drugs that require a prescription.
  • Payments made for admission and transportation to a medical conference relating to a chronic disease that you, your spouse, or your dependents have (if the costs are primarily for and essential to necessary medical care). However, you may not deduct costs of meals and lodging while attending a medical conference.
  • Payments for false teeth, reading or prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and for a guide dog or other service animal to assist the visually impaired or hearing-disabled person, or for a person with other physical disabilities.
  • Payments for transportation primarily for and essential to medical care that qualifies as medical expenses — payments of the actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, ambulance or for transportation by personal car to include the amount of your actual out-of-pocket expenses, gas, oil, etc. Standard mileage rate for medical expenses, plus the cost of tolls and parking apply as well.

Caveats for long-term care insurance

Payments for insurance policy premiums that cover medical care or for a qualified long-term care insurance policy are both deductible, but there are some caveats:

  • If you’re an employee, don’t include in medical expenses the portion of your premiums treated as paid by your employer under its sponsored group accident, health policy or qualified long-term care insurance policy.
  • Don’t include premiums that you paid under your employer-sponsored policy under a premium conversion policy (pre-tax), paid by an employer-sponsored health insurance plan (cafeteria plan), or any other medical and dental expenses unless the premiums are included in box 1 of your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

Only include medical expenses paid during the year and use the expenses only once on the return. Reduce your total deductible medical expenses by any reimbursement, whether you receive the reimbursement directly or it’s paid on your behalf to doctors, a hospital or other medical provider.

Finally, note that the threshold rises to 10 percent for 2019.

We’ve got your back

This is just a summary of a complicated series of rules.Rather than guessing at the IRS rules and requirements, why not let the KRS CPAs tax experts help? We will help you determine which expenses you can safely deduct. Contact us at 201.655.7411 to get started.

Using Financial Reports to Manage Your Business

Your financial reports can be far more useful than just a report on the state of your business.

You can use these reports to manage your business, diagnosis what’s going right and wrong, and set goals for how to grow and add to your bottom line.

What are financial reports?

Financial reports are issued at set intervals and go to shareholders, partners, investors, and potential lenders.Using Financial Reports to Manage Your Business They describe your company’s financial strengths and weaknesses and typically contain the following:

  • Balance sheet: includes statement of liabilities, assets, and business capital
  • Income statement: reports on a company’s financial performance, how it gets revenue, and how and incurs expenses
  • Cash flow statement: shows how the changes in the balance sheet affect cash and cash equivalents that flow in and out of the company

Clearly, these financial statements are essential to run your company on financial fact, not hopes and prayers. Keeping these records thoroughly is the first step in running a successful business, being prepared at tax time to pay the IRS, and accurately valuing your company should you decide to sell. Any lender or investor will want to see your financial report before deciding whether they want to hitch their money to your star.

Why GAAP is a smart move

Although some companies generate their own financial statements, many turn to their accountant to formalize their statements according to GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. It’s a smart move; here’s why:

  • Accountants can present your numbers so they are easy to read and understand.
  • If you’re a public company, accountants can provide audited financials that are certified by an independent entity.
  • Accountants can professionally format your numbers, give the statement a fancy cover, and state that an independent accountant has accepted your numbers.

Hidden gold in financial statements

Financial statements are a great tool to help you answer questions about your company and to manage money and priorities. At a glance, these statements can help you determine critical expenses as well as evaluate whether your financial position is getting better or worse, whether your staff is contributing enough to the bottom line, and whether you’re meeting set benchmarks.

We’ve got your back

We can help you compile and analyze your financial statements. Rather than guessing at financial statements, why not let the experts at KRS CPAs help? Contact us at 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

How to Handle Bad Debt and Taxes

When can you use bad debt to reduce business income?

How to Handle Bad Debt and Taxes Even when you take the customer to court and you still don’t get your money, there’s a way to make lemonade from this lemon of a customer.

If your business has already shown this amount as income for tax purposes, you may be able to reduce your business income by the amount of the bad debt. Look at bad debt as an uncollectible account—a receivable owed by a customer, client or patient that you are not able to collect.

Bad debt may be written off at the end of the year if it is determined that the debt is in fact uncollectible.

According to the IRS, bad debt includes:

  • Loans to clients and suppliers
  • Credit sales to customers
  • Business loan guarantees

How do you write off bad debt?

Your business uses the accrual accounting method, showing income when you have billed it, not when you collect it.

If your business operates on a cash accounting basis, you can’t deduct bad debt because you don’t record income until you’ve received the payment. If you don’t get the money, there’s no tax benefit to recording bad debt. You only record the sale when you receive the money from the customer.

Under accrual accounting, manually take the bad debt out of your sales records before you prepare your business tax return.

You must wait until the end of the year, just in case someone pays.

  • Prepare an accounts receivable aging report, which shows all the money owed to you by all your customers, how much is owed and how long the amount has been outstanding.
  • Total all bad debt for the year, listing all customers who have not paid during the year. Only make this determination at the end of the year and only if you’ve made every effort to collect the money owed to your business.
  • Include the bad debt total on your business tax return. If you file business taxes on Schedule C, you can deduct the amount of all bad debt. Each type of business tax return has a place to enter bad debt expenses.

It makes sense in any kind of business—no income recorded, no bad debt.

Collection efforts are important

A business bad debt often originates as a result of credit sales to customers for goods sold or services provided. The best documentation is likely to be a detailed record of collection efforts, indicating you made every effort a reasonable person would in order to collect a debt.

Take some solace by claiming a bad business debt deduction on your tax return. Not exactly a guarantee because you need to show that the debt is worthless, but it’s good to know there may be some relief.

We’ve got your back

The tax experts at KRS can help you with important accounting issues such as bad debt. Contact us today at 201.655.7411. And did you know that KRSCPAS.com is accessible from your mobile device and is loaded with tax guides, blogs, and other resources? Check it out today!

Time to Gather All Your Papers for Taxes

Time to gather your paperwork for Tax TimeGet started organizing paperwork now to make tax time less stressful.

Most of the papers you need to document the income, interest and withheld taxes you report arrive in your mailbox in January, with investment-related 1099s often coming in February. Get ready for their arrival by creating print and online folders. It’s a good idea to create a paper and an email tax folder for messages relating directly to tax information.

Email announcements that documents are available online will land in your inbox. The postal service may deliver your W-2s in your physical mailbox — although some companies post them on a secure site for downloading. Mortgage providers, banks and other financial institutions often post important 1099 forms on your online account.

Paperless banking may have turned shoe boxes into receipt relics of the past, while your online statements often contain key backup records for such potential deductions as:

  • Charitable donations
  • Outlays for health care
  • Gambling winnings and losses
  • Property tax expenditures

Many of us ignore the line items on these statements until we start our annual tax-filing ritual. However you may save time by taking a few extra minutes each month to jot down tax-related information, like:

  • Expense title
  • Check numbers
  • Payee names
  • Dollar amounts
  • Dates

Create a spreadsheet dedicated to tax records. Throughout the year, consider downloading and printing online documents that will be available for only a limited time.

Keeping track of everything

Here are some of the documents you should have handy:

  • Documents related to life events — marriage, death of a spouse or divorce, deductible alimony payment records, adoption papers, and child custody agreements should all be saved.
  • Paperwork related to childbirth. You’ll want the newborn’s Social Security card, childcare receipts and details on college savings plans.
  • Home ownership information. Keep such paperwork as closing documents — it’s good to keep closing documents in case you paid real estate taxes or points when you closed that don’t appear on your year-end mortgage interest statement. Save annual mortgage statements.

Other documents to consider:

  • Last year’s taxes, both federal and state. These are handy as good refreshers of what you filed and documents you’ll need.
  • Retirement account contributions. Keep track of your contributions to a traditional IRA or a self-employed retirement account. Keep this information handy for tax time.
  • Education expenses. Documents help your deduction claim here.
  • State and local taxes. Save these documents so that they can be easily retrieved.

The value of a tax return doesn’t end on April 15. You’ll need to provide this document to get a mortgage, apply for student loans and check the status of your refund. Generally, the IRS can audit you for three years after a filing date, and in some cases, even longer. Hold on to your return copies and supporting documents just in case. The IRS can audit you years after you file, so be prepared.

We’ve got your back

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!

Accounting Concerns for Legal Marijuana Business Operations

Accounting Concerns for Legal Marijuana Business OperationsAccounting for the growing cannabis industry is unique. Here’s why.

The goal of any accounting system is to ensure that accurate financial information is available timely to users. An appropriate system will include processes and procedures for collecting, recording and classifying data and will assist in preventing and detecting waste or, even worse, fraud.

So why is accounting for the growing cannabis industry so unique?

Management, investors and other financial statement users require the same accurate financial information as any other industry. However, in this growing industry, businesses must comply with strict state and federal regulations to avoid substantial penalties or even the risk of losing their business.

Cannabusiness accounting and compliance

Proper and adequate accounting systems and controls are even more critical in a cannabis business where the business “touches the plant.” Growers, processors and distributors have unique accounting and compliance needs unlike any other industry. The potential for large cash transactions and banking restrictions common in the industry further emphasize the need for proper accounting controls and procedures.

As states begin to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, businesses will need to consider the unique challenges the industry faces at the onset. The federal government considers business operations in this space to be “trafficking in controlled substances.” As such, proper accounting and reporting should incorporate the nuances of Internal Revenue Code Sec. 280E and 471 relating to cost accounting and inventory. In addition, state regulations require industry tracking and reporting of “seed to sale.” Most states with legalized marijuana industry require businesses to have inventory control and reporting systems in place as well as an interface with state mandated tracking systems. Therefore, the accounting system must provide reports and analysis to support compliance with federal and local regulations.

In this highly regulated environment, the business can be audited at any moment. All records must be available and in order to prove compliance with state and federal regulations. Furthermore, the accounting for businesses in this industry will need to provide for transactions to and from related entities, segment or separate “lines of business” reporting and consolidation. Business structures often include related entity relationships and investments. These advanced accounting issues are uncommon for most young or start-up businesses in other industries.

While many businesses entering the Cannabusiness space are new businesses, they cannot approach their accounting and bookkeeping in a manner often seen with new business start-ups. It’s common for a start-up to lack a proper accounting system and accounting controls before the business is up and running. A Cannabusiness business must have their system and controls in place well before they start operations.

We’ve got your back

Cannabusiness is a developing industry with many complicated factors. If you’re starting a business in this space, don’t go it alone! Contact Managing Partner Maria Rollins at mrollin[email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.

How to Read and Understand the Balance Sheet

How to Read and Understand the Balance SheetDetermine the health of a business by analyzing its Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a standard financial report that is often included with a business’ financial statements.

It is easy for business owners to understand the profit and loss statement (P&L), which provides business revenues and expenses for a given period. The balance sheet, however, provides a snapshot of a company’s accounts, specifically assets, liabilities and equity, at a given time.

So why is understanding your balance sheet so important?

First, as mentioned above, it includes the company’s assets at a specific point in time (i.e., month-end, year-end, etc.). A classified balance sheet will list the assets by liquidity and show what can and should be converted to cash quickly to pay for liabilities, operating expenses, or to invest in new ventures. Conversely, the non-liquid assets will also be listed and tell readers what the company owns long-term.

The liabilities section of the balance will show any upcoming amounts due in the short-term as well as any long-term balances. Usually, a liability is considered short-term if it is due within 12 months of the balance sheet date.

When reviewing a company’s balance sheet, the reader will review current liabilities as well as the current assets and determine if the company has sufficient current assets to settle short-term liabilities.

If current liabilities exceed current assets, the reader may conclude that the company may not be able to settle current liabilities as they come due.

Long term assets and liabilities

The long-term assets and liabilities also tell a story about the company’s future. Long-term assets such as notes receivable will advise the reader that the company will convert the assets to cash in the future. The long-term liabilities will advise of the future commitments the company has and its ability to settle those future commitments.

Analyzing a company’s balance sheet from one period to another will also provide information regarding the business health. For example, reviewing the trend in accounts receivable from one period to another can identify issues such as slow collections and uncollectible debts.

The equity section of the balance sheet is made up of the initial investment in the company and any accumulated profits or losses retained in the business at the balance sheet date. This balance is what the owners would expect if the company was liquidated. If equity is negative, the company would not have sufficient assets to settle its debts if the assets were liquidated at the balance sheet value.

For the balance sheet to be an effective tool for business owners in analyzing the strengths of their business, it should be kept on the accrual basis. In fact, financial statements prepared on the GAAP basis (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) are usually accrual basis. An accrual basis balance sheet will include all accounts receivables and accounts payables, thus providing an accurate snap shot of the company’s assets and liabilities at a specific date.

Conversely, cash basis balance sheets will not include the receivables and payables and, if these items are material to the business, the reader will not know what collections are expected in the short-term and what liabilities will need cash in the immediate future.

If you are a small business owner take a moment to review your balance sheet. Understanding how to improve specific account balances can help you grow a financially secure business.

We’ve got your back

At KRS, our CPAs can help you review your balance sheet and put together a plan for improving your company’s financial situation. Give us a call at 201.655.7411 or email me at [email protected]

 

The New Tax Law’s Impact on Law Firms

New tax rules that apply to law firms are complicated

Lakeland Bank Breakfast presentation
Breakfast with Lakeland Bank: The Impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Law Firms. Neil Gordon and Ottilia Stura from Lakeland Bank, with Maria Rollins and Jerry Shanker

KRS partner Jerry Shanker and I discussed the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on law firms at a Breakfast with Lakeland Bank on June 12.

From working with our law firm clients and associates, we realized that many firms are still scrambling to come to grips with the tax code changes and develop tax planning strategies around them. The attendees at our Lakeland Bank talk had similar concerns.

While many businesses stand to benefit from the tax code overhaul, when it comes to the Act’s impact on law firms and their partners and associates – it can get complicated.

These key provisions of the Act affect law firms and their members:

  • Reduction in individual and corporate income tax rates
  • $10,000 annual limit on deduction of state and local income taxes (SALT). This includes deduction for real estate taxes
  • No deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions Increased standard deductions
  • Introduction of new Code Section 199A, which provides for a tax deduction of 20% of qualified business income, subject to limitations and exclusions

Free Guide for Law Firms

We’ve summarized several other key changes in the tax code that impact law firms in a downloadable guide, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – Considerations for Law Firms.”

TCJA Considerations for Attorneys
Law firms need to develop new tax planning strategies so they don’t pay more tax than necessary under the new tax laws.

If you are a managing partner or executive at your law firm, understanding the factors covered in the Guide will help you and your firm determine the best strategy for optimizing your firm’s and your partners’ tax positions. By downloading this guide, you will learn:

  • How the choice of business entity – C-Corp, S-Corp, or pass-throughs – is impacted by the updated code
  • New rules for specified service businesses
  • Changes that impact entertainment and fringe benefit expenses
  • Code Section 179 changes that impact expense deductions
  • New limitations on business interest and excess business loss
  • Key changes to Section 199A deductions that impact individual W-2 wage earners.

Download the Guide

We’ve got your back

At KRS, we’re working to help our clients understand and navigate the new tax law changes – and those affecting law firms are particularly complicated. Because each law firm’s and individuals’ taxable income and deductions are unique, each individual set of facts and circumstances must be reviewed.  We’re happy to help you with yours. Contact me at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for an initial consultation.

The Importance of a ‘Paycheck Checkup’

The Importance of a Paycheck CheckupThe Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup.”

To help understand the implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS unveiled several new features to navigate the issues affecting withholding in their paychecks. The effort includes a new series of plain language Tax Tips which detail the importance of reviewing withholding as soon as possible.

The new tax law could affect how much tax you should have your employer withhold from your paycheck. To help with this, taxpayers can use the IRS’ Withholding Calculator. The Withholding Calculator can help prevent you from having too little or too much tax withheld from their paycheck. Having too little tax withheld can mean an unexpected tax bill or potentially a penalty at tax time next year. With the average refund topping $2,800, some taxpayers might prefer less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks.

Individuals can use the Withholding Calculator to estimate their 2018 income tax. The Withholding Calculator compares that estimate to your current tax withholding and can help you decide if you need to change your withholding with your employer.  When using the calculator, it’s helpful to have a completed 2017 tax return available.

Those who need to adjust their withholding must submit a new Form W-4 to their employer. If you need to adjust your withholding, doing so as quickly as possible means there’s more time for tax withholding to take place evenly during the rest of the year. If you wait until later in the year, it could have a bigger impact on each paycheck and your 2018 return.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the standard deduction, removed personal exemptions, increased the child tax credit, limited or discontinued certain deductions, and changed the tax rates and brackets. Those who should especially check their withholding are:

  • Two-income families
  • People working two or more jobs or who only work for part of the year
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit
  • People with older dependents, including children age 17 or older
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns
  • People with large tax refunds or large tax bills for 2017

We’ve got your back

At KRS, we’re working to help our clients understand and navigate these tax law changes. We strongly encourage all taxpayers to do a paycheck checkup to ensure they’re having the right amount of tax withheld for their unique personal situation. Contact managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

2018 Pension Plan Limitations Not Affected by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

2018 Pension Plan Limitations Not Affected by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 does not affect the tax year 2018 dollar limitations for retirement plans announced in IR 2017-177 and detailed in Notice 2017-64.

The tax law provides dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans, and it requires the Treasury Department to annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Those adjustments are to be made using procedures that are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under the Social Security Act.

As the recently enacted tax legislation made no changes to the section of the tax law limiting benefits and contributions for retirement plans, the qualified retirement plan limitations for tax year 2018 previously announced in the news release and detailed in guidance remain unchanged. This is good news for individuals contributing to their qualified retirement plans.

Cost of living adjustments

The tax law also specifies that contribution limits for IRAs, as well as the income thresholds related to IRAs and the saver’s credit, are to be adjusted for changes in the cost of living using procedures that are used to make cost-of-living adjustments that apply to many of the basic income tax parameters.

Although the new law made changes to how these cost of living adjustments are made, after taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2018 in the news release and the guidance remain unchanged.

We’ve got your back on the new tax code

The new tax code is complex and every taxpayer’s situation is different – so don’t go it alone! Check out the New Tax Law Explained! For Individuals page, then contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 to discuss your situation.