Filing Taxes as a Married Couple

Filing Taxes as a Married CoupleIf you were married this past year, congratulations!

Getting married is a big step in your life and along with it comes many changes.  One change is filing taxes as a married couple for the first time. This advice can help you get started.

First, you must determine your filing status. Your status depends on your marital status on the last day of the year. If you were legally married as of December 31, you are considered to be married for the full year and must either file a Married Filing Joint or Married Filing Separate tax return.  Filing status is important for determining your standard deduction, whether you qualify for various deductions and credits, and the amount of tax is owed.

Filing Alternatives

If you choose to file a Married Filing Joint tax return, you must include all your and your spouse’s income, deductions, and credits on one tax return.  The standard deduction in 2018 for filing a Married Filing Joint tax return is $24,000. If you choose to file a Married Filing Separate tax return, each of you will report your respective income, deductions, and credits on separate tax returns.

The standard deduction for a Married Filing Separate tax return is $12,000 each. Married Filing Separate will rarely produce a lower tax liability. Most tax preparing software will provide you with an analysis on whether filing separately makes sense.  If using a self-preparing software or if you work with a tax preparer, be sure to ask which way produces a lower liability for your family.

When filing a separate tax return, there are some tax deductions that may be unavailable to you:

  • If you itemize your deductions, your spouse must also itemize their deductions.  You may not mix and match the itemized deduction and the standard deduction.
  • The Earned Income Credit is unavailable.
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit is generally unavailable.
  • You cannot deduct interest paid on student loans.
  • Adoption Credit is generally not allowed.
  • Reduction of Child Tax Credit is unavailable.

Considerations for Working Couples

For couples who both work, both spouses will need to adjust the tax withholding from their paychecks.  One of the biggest mistakes of newlywed couples and taxes is the under withholding of income tax from their paychecks.  Because your income will be taxed together, this may push you into a higher tax bracket and when it’s time to file your tax return, there will be a surprise balance due.  Be sure to sit down with your spouse and properly fill out each of your Form W-4s Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate correctly.  Form W-4 worksheets are available to walk you through the process of matching tax due with withholdings.  The goal here is to match these as close as possible so that there is not a large balance due or large refund.  This way you have the most money in your pocket all year long.

Name and Address Changes

One other thing to keep in mind is filing with the correct names and addresses.  If there are any name changes, be sure to use the correct name on your married tax returns.  If there is an address change, you should change your address with the IRS by filing Form 8822 Change of Address and mailing it to the address on the form.  You should also update your address with your local post office.  If you have any children, be sure to include them as well on your tax return with their full name and social security number.  Retirement accounts and beneficiary information should also be updated accordingly if your spouse is the beneficiary.

Considerations for Home Sales

Planning on selling your home? Your taxable gain exclusion on your personal residence doubles from $250,000 to $500,000 once you are married.  This is only the case if you own the home and both you and your spouse have lived in the home the past 2 out of 5 years.  If you sold your home before you were married, the $250,000 would still apply.

Keeping these tips in mind can help make your first tax season together go a bit more smoothly.

Lance Aligo, CPA, MSA, is a senior accountant at KRS CPAs, LLC, Paramus, NJ.  You can reach him at [email protected] or 201-655-7411. Check out KRSCPAS.com for more tax tips, checklists, blogs, and other resources to help you succeed.

Should Rules of Thumb Be Used to Value a Business?

Should Rules of Thumb Be Used to Value a Business?I frequently receive requests to quickly value a business by applying a “rule of thumb”, that is, application of a simple formula to the gross or net income of a business to determine its value.  The value of a business is based on two factors: cash flow and risk.  Using a rule of thumb to value a business considers neither.

Rules of thumb are old wives’ tales of business valuation; no one knows where they come from or the basis upon which they were derived.

How rules of thumb get it wrong

As a simple example, consider two hypothetical businesses in the same industry (Company A and Company B).  Each has $2 million of sales and $400,000 net income.  Using a rule of thumb would result in both businesses having the same value.  But what if all of Company A’s sales came from a single customer, and Company B’s sales consisted of $100,000 each to twenty customers.  Which company is more valuable?  Company A clearly has more risk because the loss of a single customer would put it out of business.  However, this factor, and many similar factors, are never considered by rules of thumb.

In determining what they will pay for a business, investors consider projected cash flow and risk that projected cash flow will not be realized.  A fair market value buyer pays for cash flow; the greater the cash flow the more the buyer will pay.  Cash flow includes funds available for distribution during the period of ownership, as well as the amount received upon the sale of the business.  The cash flow is discounted at a rate based on risk; the greater the risk the higher the discount rate and the lower the business value.

Risks to consider

Risks common to many businesses include customer and/or supplier concentration, competition, lack of management depth, and product obsolescence.  This list is not all inclusive as most businesses are unique and may face other risks not mentioned.

We’ve got your back

Estimating the value of a business requires thorough analysis of the business, the industry, the marketplace, and the economy.   If you want to know the value of a business, don’t use a rule of thumb; engage a business valuation professional.  You will be glad you did.

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.

Now Is the Time for Business Succession Planning

According to several national surveys of closely held business owners, approximately three in five do not have any business succession plan in place.

At KRS, we specialize in advising owners of family and closely held businesses and our observations are consistent with the survey results.Now is the time for business succession planning

I am working with Joe, the owner of a profitable $75 million company, and we have been talking about succession planning for several years.  Joe is in his mid-sixties, in good health, and has no plan to retire in the foreseeable future.   Are you surprised that Joe has no succession plan for his business? Like many business owners, Joe can’t get his arms around the fact that having a plan doesn’t make retirement mandatory; it only protects the business (which is Joe’s most valuable asset) if he does.   Although we frequently discuss the importance of succession planning, Joe doesn’t seem to want to face the tough decisions involved.

Employee and customer concerns

Joe’s employees have been concerned about succession plans for quite a while.  When I met with him recently, Joe shared the fact that several of his major customers have also asked about his plans for the company.  Joe said that the customers don’t want to see the plan and don’t care about the financial arrangements, but they just want to know that the company will continue if something happens to Joe.  They want to know who will run the company if Joe can’t.  This is understandable, especially since the company is a major supplier for several customers.  The customers don’t want to risk interruption in product supply and they may reduce this risk by diversifying purchases among several suppliers if they don’t get answers, resulting in decreased revenue and profitability for Joe’s company.

Plan succession before it’s too late

Joe is the sole owner of his company, but succession planning is equally important in multiple owner companies.  In all cases, it is best to execute a plan while everyone is healthy and getting along.  When a triggering event occurs, it is usually too late.  If you are a business owner, review your succession plan today, and if you don’t have a plan, contact your attorney and CPA to start working on one.

Time to Send Out Those 1099-Misc Forms

Time to Send Out Those 1099-Misc FormsWith tax season right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about closing your books out for the year and preparing all your tax documents.

One of the required tax documents you may need to send out is the 1099-Misc. While this can be a tedious task, especially if you haven’t kept good records on your independent contractors, it is necessary to avoid penalties by the IRS. To help simplify things, here are the basics:

As a general rule, you must issue a Form 1099-Misc to each person to whom you have paid at least $600 in rents, services (included parts and materials), prizes and awards, or other income payments. You don’t need to issue 1099-Misc for payments made for personal purposes.  You are required to issue 1099-Misc to report payments you made in the course of your trade or business. You’ll send this form to any individual, partnership, Limited Liability Company, Limited Partnership, or estate.

Some 1099 exceptions

There is a lengthy list of exceptions, but the most common one is payments to corporation. All payments made to a corporation do not typically require a 1099-Misc.  This means that if you make payments to a company that is incorporated or to an LLC that elects to be treated as a C-Corporation or S-Corporation, then this would not be reported on a 1099-Misc.  Unfortunately, this exception doesn’t apply to payments you made to an attorney.

Another exception is payments to vendors using a credit card or through a third-party payment network. You are not required to send a 1099-Misc for amounts paid electronically.  Instead, the credit card companies and payment companies will handle any required reporting.  Those electronic payment providers are required under certain circumstances to send out a different version of the 1099-Misc, called the 1099-K, instead.

Get those W-9s from vendors

To make the 1099 process easier, it is best practice for business owners to request a Form W-9 from any vendor you expect to pay more than $600 before you pay them.  Form W-9 will give you the vendor’s mailing information, Tax ID number, and also require the vendor to indicate if it is a corporation or not.  Having a completed W-9 will give you all the information to complete the 1099-Misc and save you a lot of headaches during tax season.

For the current year’s payments, businesses must send 1099-MISC to the recipients by January 31 of the following year.  Businesses also must send copies of each 1099-MISC sent to recipients to the IRS.  The deadline to the IRS is January 31.  This deadline applies to Form 1099-MISC when reporting non-employee compensation payment in Box 7.  Otherwise, paper filings must be filed with the IRS by February 28 and electronic filing by March 31. Also depending on the state law, businesses may also have to file the 1099s with the state.

We have your back

Rather than guessing at the IRS rules and requirements, why not let the KRS CPAs tax experts help? We will help you organize Form 1099 MISC recipient data and prepare all the necessary forms for you to submit. Contact Kelley DaCunha at [email protected] 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!

Estate and Gift Tax Update: No Clawback After Increased Transfer Limit Expires

Estate and Gift Tax Update: No Clawback After Increased Transfer Limit ExpiresThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”) increased the lifetime estate and gift tax amount that may be transferred free from $5 million to $10 million per taxpayer, indexed for inflation.  This increased exemption applies to transfers made between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2025.  On January 1, 2026, the lifetime exemption reverts to $5 million.

The IRS recently announced that the 2019 inflation adjusted exemption amount is $11.4 million, which allows a married couple to shield $22.8 million from transfer tax.

Because the increased tax exemption was temporary, there was uncertainty whether gifts exceeding $5 million made under these provisions would be clawed back into the estates of decedents dying after the 2025 expiration of the increased exemption amount.   In other words, if you made a $10 million gift in 2025 and died in 2027 when the exemption is $5 million, would your estate owe tax on the $5 million excess?

On November 25, 2018, the IRS answered this question with the issuance of proposed regulations, which indicate that gifts made before January 1, 2026, will not be clawed back to the estates of decedents dying after December 31, 2025.  The issuance of these proposed regulations strengthens a tremendous opportunity for the tax-free transfer of wealth, including ownership interests in closely held businesses.

Gifting closely held business interests

For those considering gifting closely held business interests, the process is more complicated than gifting assets such as marketable securities, the fair market value of which is readily determinable.  To gift a business ownership interest, a valuation of the business and the gifted interest must be performed by a qualified business appraiser.  Although 2025 is distant, those who wait until the last minute may encounter problems obtaining the required business valuation.  You may recall 2016, when the IRS proposed rules eliminating valuation discounts in estate and gift valuations.  There was a mad rush to get valuation reports completed, with limited capacity to complete this work.

We’ve got your back

If you have a large estate, this is a tremendous opportunity to save transfer taxes, which get to a 40% tax rate very quickly.  If your estate includes a closely held business, you would benefit by starting the process sooner rather than later. Once this opportunity is gone, it will be gone for good.  Contact your advisors today to get the process going.

Understanding IRC Code Section 1033

Understanding IRC Code Section 1033Unfortunately, 2018 has been another year of major disasters due to hurricanes, fires, and floods. As taxpayers turn to the process of restoring property, some may be considering whether a 1033 exchange is more relevant than a 1031 exchange.

This blog entry examines some of the key aspects of the 1033 exchange.

What is an IRC 1033 exchange?

A section 1033 exchange, named for Section 1033 of the Internal Revenue Code, applies when you lose property through a casualty, theft or condemnation and realize gain from the insurance or condemnation proceeds. If your accountant or tax advisor believes you will realize gain from the insurance or condemnation proceeds, you may be able to defer that gain using a 1033 exchange.

Compared to IRC 1031

Internal Revenue Code Section 1031, commonly referred to as a “like-kind exchange,” does not allow a taxpayer to hold or benefit from the proceeds during the exchange period. It also requires the replacement property be identified within 45 days and acquired within 180 days after the closing of the relinquished property. If a taxpayer is deferring gain in a 1033 exchange, he can hold the proceeds until the acquisition of the replacement property and an intermediary is not required.

Replacement property

Another difference between a 1031 and a 1033 exchange is the standard that is used to limit what you can buy as replacement property. In general, the standard is more restrictive under 1033 than the like-kind standard under IRC 1031. Section 1033 provides the replacement property must be “similar or related in service or use” to the property that was lost in the casualty or condemnation. It is important to note the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated tax-deferred like-kind exchanges of personal property, but allows exchanges of business and investment real estate.

Time period

The time period allowed for the taxpayer to acquire the replacement property is much more liberal than Section 1031 exchanges. The period begins at the earlier of when the taxpayer first discovers the threat or imminence of condemnation proceedings or when the condemnation or other involuntary conversion occurs. The period ends either two or three years after the end of the tax year in which the conversion occurs. The time period is three years for real property held for business or investment and two years for all other property. If the taxpayer has lost property in a federally declared disaster area, Section 1033 gives the taxpayer a two year extension on the replacement period, granting a total of four years in which to replace the lost property.

Taxpayers having lost their property due to casualties or those facing condemnation should consult with their tax advisors to take advantage of the tax deferral afforded under Section 1033 if they wish to replace their lost property.

We’ve got your back

With Simon Filip, the Real Estate Tax Guy, on your side, you can focus on your real estate investments while he and his team take care of your accounting and taxes. Contact him at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 today.