The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) Voluntary Disclosure Program is a program introduced by the Internal Revenue Service in response to certain businesses claiming the ERC improperly or failing to claim it when they were eligible. The ERC was introduced as part of the CARES Act in 2020 and was aimed at providing financial relief to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the ERC, eligible employers could receive a refundable tax credit against employment taxes for qualified wages paid to employees. However, there were specific criteria and limitations for eligibility, and some businesses may have erroneously claimed the credit or failed to claim it when they were eligible.

The Voluntary Disclosure Program allows these businesses to come forward voluntarily to correct any errors or omissions related to claiming the ERC. By participating in the program, businesses could potentially avoid penalties or other enforcement actions that might otherwise be imposed for incorrect claims or noncompliance with ERC requirements.  Eligible taxpayers can repay only 80% of the gross amount of the credit erroneously claimed while retaining the remaining 20% (IRS Announcement 2024-3).  Taxpayers that repay the 80% of their ERC are deemed to have made a full repayment.

Taxpayers participating in the Voluntary Disclosure Program must file Form 15434 (Application for ERC Voluntary Disclosure Program) on or before March 22, 2024 and be submitted thru the IRS Document Upload Tool: www.irs.gov/help/irs-document-upload-tool

Participation in the program typically involves disclosing the relevant information to the IRS and working to rectify any discrepancies or issues with ERC claims. The specifics of the program, including eligibility criteria and procedures for participation, would be determined by the IRS and outlined in official guidance.

Businesses considering participation in such a program should consult with tax professionals or legal advisors familiar with ERC regulations and IRS procedures to ensure compliance and to understand the potential benefits and implications of voluntary disclosure.  For complete information, including eligibility and processing, please visit: www.irs.gov/coronavirus/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-employee-retention-credit-voluntary-disclosure-program

In the landscape of financial planning and tax optimization, Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) stand out as a powerful mechanism for individuals looking to enhance their philanthropic impact while optimizing their tax situation. This article delves into the core of QCDs, providing insights into how they can serve as a strategic tool in your charitable giving and financial planning.

Understanding QCDs

Qualified Charitable Distributions allow individuals aged 70½ or older to directly donate up to $100,000 from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to a qualified charity, tax-free. This unique provision supports your philanthropic endeavors and offers a tax-efficient way to meet Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), particularly for those aged 73 and above. QCDs differ from regular IRA distributions, which is typically taxable, by excluding these donations from your taxable income, thus achieving the dual objective of aiding charitable causes and reducing your tax liability.

Strategic Giving

QCDs embody the essence of strategic giving, allowing you to see the impact of your generosity firsthand. This proactive approach to philanthropy provides a more immediate and gratifying experience compared to traditional legacy giving. With the onset of charity-focused events early in the year, it’s an opportune time to consider QCDs as a key element of your giving strategy.

Enhancing Tax Efficiency

Effective tax planning is a crucial element of sound financial management. Utilizing QCDs can significantly improve the tax efficiency of your charitable contributions. By transferring funds directly from your IRA to a charity, the donation does not count as taxable income, therefore not only advancing your charitable objectives but also potentially reducing your overall tax burden. This can be especially beneficial in light of increased standard deductions, which may diminish the tax advantages of itemized deductions for many taxpayers.

Compliance and Limitations

To fully benefit from QCDs, accurately navigating associated regulations is essential. You must be at least 70½ years old at the time of the distribution and the donation must go directly to a qualifying charity, excluding private foundations and donor-advised funds. The annual limit for QCDs is $100,000 per individual, with recent updates allowing for inflation adjustments. Ensuring that your IRA trustee correctly processes the QCD is required for it to qualify for tax-free treatment.

Living Your Legacy

Opting to donate your RMD through a QCD enables you to embody your philanthropic values, creating a legacy of support and impact. This strategy provides the satisfaction of contributing to worthy causes and smartly aligns with your tax planning, potentially influencing various tax considerations such as Social Security taxation and Medicare premiums.

Conclusion

Leveraging Qualified Charitable Distributions within your philanthropic and financial strategy can offer substantial rewards. QCDs enable impactful contributions to the community and present an intelligent way to manage your tax obligations. Consulting with your financial advisor and tax professional is advised to ensure that your charitable giving initiatives are well integrated with your overall financial objectives. By incorporating QCDs into your planning, you can achieve a fulfilling balance between meaningful giving and prudent financial management.

To ensure that this strategy aligns with your overall financial goals and tax situation, it is crucial to seek the advice of your CPA or certified financial planner. They can provide personalized guidance to determine if QCDs are the right choice for you.

Understanding and implementing the proper accounting method is a cornerstone for financial clarity and operational success. As a business owner, choosing between cash-basis and accrual accounting methods affects how you report financial transactions. This article delves into the essence of these accounting methods, their significance, and how to discern which is most conducive to your business’s growth and fiscal management.

The Essence of Accounting Methods

Accounting methods are the backbone of financial record-keeping, providing a structured approach to tracking financial transactions and maintaining accurate financial records. The primary objective is to depict an organization’s financial performance and position. Understanding the nuances of each accounting method helps business owners make informed decisions, manage tax obligations effectively, and forecast future growth with precision.

Cash-Basis Accounting: Simplicity and Immediate Financial Insight

Cash-basis accounting, renowned for its simplicity, only records income and expenses when cash is exchanged. This method offers a straightforward perspective on cash flow, allowing small business owners to ascertain their financial standing at any given moment easily. However, its simplicity comes at the cost of a comprehensive view, as it doesn’t account for pending receivables or payables, potentially skewing the real financial health of the business. Small enterprises, particularly those without inventory or complex financial obligations, often find cash-basis accounting advantageous for its direct reflection of cash on hand and ease of management.

Accrual Accounting: A Comprehensive Financial Overview

In contrast, accrual accounting provides a more detailed financial picture by recording transactions when they are incurred, irrespective of cash movement. This method is essential for businesses that engage in credit transactions, carry inventory, or require a detailed understanding of their financial status for decision-making and strategic planning. Accrual accounting enables business owners to anticipate future revenues and expenses, offering insights into the company’s long-term financial trajectory. While it necessitates a more meticulous record-keeping process, its benefits in providing a complete financial overview are undeniable.

Choosing the Right Path: Factors to Consider

The choice between cash-basis and accrual accounting hinges on several factors, including the size of your business, regulatory requirements, and strategic financial planning needs. The IRS mandates accrual accounting for businesses surpassing $26 million in gross receipts over a three-year average, underscoring its relevance for larger enterprises. Additionally, businesses aiming for growth or those engaging in complex financial activities may find accrual accounting more suitable due to its in-depth financial insights and forecasting capabilities.

For small businesses, particularly those at the threshold of significant growth or with plans to scale, starting with accrual accounting can lay a solid foundation for future financial management needs. Conversely, cash-basis accounting may suffice for businesses with simpler transactions and those seeking straightforward financial tracking.

Modified Cash-Basis Accounting: Bridging the Gap

Businesses looking for a middle ground may consider modified cash-basis accounting, which combines elements of both methods. This hybrid approach allows for recording short-term cash transactions and long-term financial activities, offering flexibility and a balanced view of a business’s financial health.

Empower Your Business with Informed Decisions

In choosing the right accounting method for your business, being well-informed cannot be overstated. Whether cash-basis or accrual accounting is better depends on your business’s specific needs, regulatory requirements, and growth aspirations. Remember, this decision is about compliance, strategic financial planning, and management. Given the complexities involved, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). A CPA can offer personalized advice, ensuring your accounting method aligns with your business goals and paves the way for sustainable growth.  Making this critical decision with professional insight allows you to navigate your business toward financial clarity and success.

When launching a small business, many entrepreneurs start out as sole proprietors. If you’re launching a venture as a sole proprietorship, you need to understand the tax issues involved. Here are nine considerations:

Turn to Us

Contact us if you want additional information regarding the tax aspects of your business, or if you have questions about reporting or recordkeeping requirements.

© 2024

A new year marks a fresh start for businesses, offering a chance to enhance financial management practices and unlock opportunities for growth and success. As a business owner, improving your financial management can open doors to many possibilities. This article will explore essential tips for leveraging accounting software, particularly QuickBooks, to boost your financial oversight and operational efficiency in 2024.

Embrace Regular Account Reconciliation

One of the foundational steps in effective financial management is regular account reconciliation. This involves ensuring that your QuickBooks accounts align accurately with your bank statements. Regular reconciliations allow you to identify and rectify any discrepancies that may arise swiftly. This practice maintains the integrity of your financial records and provides you with a clear understanding of your business’s financial health.

Utilize Class and Location Tracking

QuickBooks’ class and location tracking feature can be a game-changer for businesses with multiple departments or product lines. This tool offers deeper insights into the profitability and expenses of various segments within your business. By categorizing transactions according to classes or locations, you can make more informed decisions and allocate resources more effectively.

Set Up Recurring Transactions

Repetitive financial tasks, such as monthly subscriptions or rent payments, can be automated through QuickBooks and other accounting software. Setting up recurring transactions saves time and ensures consistency and accuracy in your financial records. This feature eliminates the risk of missing essential payments and helps you maintain a seamless financial workflow.

Make the Most of Your Accounting Software Mobile App

In today’s fast-paced business environment, mobility is crucial. Most cloud-based accounting software, including QuickBooks, offers mobile apps that allow you to manage your finances on the go. Whether you need to track expenses, send invoices, or access financial data from anywhere, these mobile apps provide convenience and flexibility. This accessibility ensures that you always stay in control of your finances.

Leverage Advanced Reporting Features

Modern accounting software systems offer advanced reporting capabilities that provide valuable insights into your business finances. QuickBooks, for example, offers customizable reports, including cash flow statements and profit and loss reports. Here are four essential reports to consider running:

Keep Tabs on Accounts Receivable and Payable

Maintaining a healthy cash flow is essential for business sustainability. Regularly monitoring your accounts receivable and payable in QuickBooks, with the help of the reports mentioned earlier, will ensure that you stay on top of overdue payments and effectively manage your bills. This proactive approach is key to maintaining financial stability.

Integrate with Other Business Software

Consider further integrating your accounting software with other business tools to enhance your financial management. Integration can streamline workflows, improve data accuracy, and enhance business efficiency. For example, integrating with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can provide a holistic view of your business operations, helping you better understand customer interactions and needs.

By implementing these features and strategies, you can elevate your financial management practices, gain deeper insights into your business operations, and make well-informed decisions that drive your business forward. As you embark on this journey in 2024, remember that effective financial management is the cornerstone of business success, and with the right tools and practices, you can achieve your growth and profitability goals.

As part of the SECURE 2.0 law, there’s a new benefit option for employees facing emergencies. It’s called a pension-linked emergency savings account (PLESA) and the provision authorizing it became effective for plan years beginning January 1, 2024. The IRS recently released guidance about the accounts (in Notice 2024-22) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published some frequently asked questions to help employers, plan sponsors, participants and others understand them.

PLESA Basics

The DOL defines PLESAs as “short-term savings accounts established and maintained within a defined contribution plan.” Employers with 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans can opt to offer PLESAs to non-highly compensated employees. For 2024, a participant who earned $150,000 or more in 2023 is a highly compensated employee.

Here are some more details of this new type of account:

Proof of an Event Not Necessary

A participant in a PLESA doesn’t need to prove that he or she is experiencing an emergency before making a withdrawal from an account. The DOL states that “withdrawals are made at the discretion of the participant.”

These are just the basic details of PLESAs. Contact us if you have questions about these or other fringe benefits and their tax implications.

© 2024

Operating your small business as a Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) could be a tax-wise idea.

Tax-Free Treatment for Eligible Stock Gains

QSBCs are the same as garden-variety C corporations for tax and legal purposes — except QSBC shareholders are potentially eligible to exclude from federal income tax 100% of their stock sale gains. That translates into a 0% federal income tax rate on QSBC stock sale profits! However, you must meet several requirements set forth in Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code, and not all shares meet the tax-law description of QSBC stock. Finally, there are limitations on the amount of QSBC stock sale gain that you can exclude in any one tax year (but they’re unlikely to apply).

Stock Acquisition Date is Key

The 100% federal income tax gain exclusion is only available for sales of QSBC shares that were acquired on or after September 28, 2010.

If you currently operate as a sole proprietorship, single-member LLC treated as a sole proprietorship, partnership or multi-member LLC treated as a partnership, you’ll have to incorporate the business and issue yourself shares to attain QSBC status.

Important: The act of incorporating a business shouldn’t be taken lightly. We can help you evaluate the pros and cons of taking this step.

Here are some more rules and requirements:

2017 Law Sweetened the Deal

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made a flat 21% corporate federal income tax rate permanent, assuming no backtracking by Congress. So, if you own shares in a profitable QSBC and you eventually sell them when you’re eligible for the 100% gain exclusion break, the 21% corporate rate could be all the income tax that’s ever owed to Uncle Sam.

Tax Incentives Drive the Decision

Before concluding that you can operate your business as a QSBC, consult with us. We’ve summarized the most important eligibility rules here, but there are more. The 100% federal income tax stock sale gain exclusion break and the flat 21% corporate federal income tax rate are two strong incentives for eligible small businesses to operate as QSBCs.

© 2024

The optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up by 1.5 cents per mile in 2024. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 67 cents (up from 65.5 cents for 2023).

The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline, which is about the same as it was a year ago. On December 21, 2023, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.12, compared with $3.10 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Standard Rate vs. Tracking Expenses

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. These include gas, tires, oil, repairs, insurance, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is helpful if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.

The standard rate is also used by businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, reimbursements to employees could be considered taxable wages to them.

Rate Calculation

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repairs and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the rate midyear.

Not Always Allowed

There are cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. In some situations, it depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it hinges on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct business vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2024 — or claiming 2023 expenses on your 2023 tax return.

© 2023

We’ve closed another year marked by economic uncertainties, and one constant remains—the potential to enhance your company’s financial health by strategically managing your tax obligations. Below, we outline practical and timely strategies tailored for business owners looking to navigate the intricate landscape of tax planning.

Take Advantage of Entity (PTE) Tax Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) imposed a $10,000 cap on federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT). Over 30 states, including California, have implemented “workaround” measures benefiting PTE owners to counter this. These provisions allow partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations to pay entity-level state tax, providing owners with corresponding benefits, such as tax credits or deductions. This strategy lets your business bypass the SALT limit, resulting in potential federal business expense deductions.

Explore the Power of Cash Balance Retirement Plans

Cash balance retirement plans are making a comeback, especially for businesses with high-earning individuals who consistently hit their 401(k) limits. These plans offer a unique fusion of defined contribution and defined benefit plans, allowing businesses to claim substantial deductions for contributions.

Remember, under the original SECURE Act, businesses have until their federal filing deadline (including extensions) to set up a cash balance plan. But here’s the practical insight: it takes some time to get everything in order—documents, contribution calculations, and administrative tasks. So, it’s wise to kickstart the process sooner rather than later.

This strategy helps secure your financial future and offers a valuable tax advantage for your business.

Strategically Time Income and Expenses

Are you using the cash method for income tax reporting? Consider accelerating year-end deductions in December and deferring income until January to optimize your 2023 income. For instance, pay bills and employee bonuses for 2023 before year-end and stock up on supplies to accelerate deductions. Conversely, if higher profits are anticipated in the upcoming year, consider the opposite approach—accelerate income and postpone deductions to maximize their value. Consider the impact on your Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction, especially if your business operates as a pass-through entity.

Harness the Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction

A cornerstone of the 2017 tax reform, the QBI deduction for pass-through entities allows owners to claim up to 20% of their QBI, subject to specific limitations. Manage your taxable income wisely, as accelerated depreciation and certain tax breaks tied to taxable income can affect your QBI and subsequent deductions.

Optimize Asset Purchases

Seize the opportunity for first-year bonus depreciation for qualified property acquired and placed in service in 2023. While the benefit gradually diminishes, it remains at 80% for this tax year. Prioritize using IRC Section 179 expensing election for asset purchases, enabling you to deduct 100% of the purchase price for eligible assets. Be aware of the $1.16 million maximum deduction and plan strategically to maximize this tax-saving tool.

Leverage the 100% Gain Exclusion for Qualified Small Business Stock

Explore the 100% federal income tax gain exclusion for eligible sales of Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) stock acquired after September 27, 2010. Hold QSBC shares for over five years to qualify for the gain exclusion. Planning is crucial to secure this exclusion privilege.

Embrace Family Employment

Employing family members can be a strategic move to reduce overall tax liability. Deduct wages and benefits, including medical benefits, paid to family employees, reducing self-employment tax liability. Wages paid to children under 18 are not subject to federal employment taxes, providing potential tax savings.

Remember, seemingly minor tax decisions may have significant consequences. Please consult with us to ensure your business makes informed year-end tax planning moves that align with your goals.

As the end of the tax year approaches, it’s essential to consider strategies to minimize your 2023 federal tax liability. The current landscape presents challenges with market volatility, persistent high-interest rates, and notable adjustments to retirement planning regulations. Despite this uncertainty, there is still an opportunity to implement year-end tax planning techniques to reduce your tax bill. Whether you are contemplating investment decisions, charitable contributions, or estate planning, there are practical strategies to optimize your tax plan.

Strategic Itemized Deductions

With a standard deduction of $13,850 for single filers, $27,700 for married couples filing jointly, and $20,800 for heads of households in 2023, assessing your itemized deductions is crucial. Consider strategically timing your itemized deduction items by “bunching” them to exceed the standard deduction every other year. This approach can help lower your tax bill this year, and in the following year, you can take advantage of the increased standard deduction to account for inflation.

Potential candidates for itemized deductions include:

It’s worth noting the possibility of future changes to the value of itemized deductions, emphasizing the importance of maximizing these deductions while current regulations permit.

Navigate Investment Gains and Losses

Effectively managing your investment portfolio can influence your tax liability. Consider the strategic sale of appreciated securities held for over 12 months in 2023, leveraging the favorable 15% federal income tax rate on long-term capital gains. It’s crucial to remember that this rate can increase to 20% for individuals with higher income levels. Equally important is evaluating stocks valued below your initial investment (tax basis). Realizing capital losses this year could offset various gains, including short-term capital gains taxed at ordinary income rates. Always be aware of the wash sale rules before reacquiring recently sold or purchased stocks. This approach allows you to navigate the complexities of the market while optimizing your tax position.

Strategic Philanthropy Options

Embrace unique avenues for philanthropy tailored to your preferences:

Roth IRA Conversions: 

Safeguard a portion or all of your retirement savings from potential tax rate increases by converting traditional IRAs into Roth accounts. While you’ll incur taxes on the conversion as if it were a traditional IRA distribution, this approach is most beneficial when anticipating remaining in the same or higher tax bracket during retirement. Notably, the current tax impact from conversion may be a small price to pay for evading potentially higher future tax rates on post-conversion earnings. Additionally, the flexibility exists to convert varying amounts over several years, allowing you to tailor the strategy to your circumstances.

Annual Gift Tax Exclusion:

If concerns arise about a potentially taxable estate, leverage the annual gift tax exclusion as an effortless method to reduce your taxable estate. In 2023, seize the opportunity to make annual exclusion gifts up to $17,000 per donee, with no limitations on the number of donees. The joint annual exclusion gift limit for couples reaches $34,000 per donee. These tax-free gifts don’t impact your lifetime gifting exemption, providing an effective means to manage your estate’s tax implications.

Energy Credits:

Homeowners investing in energy-efficient improvements can claim an Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, covering up to 30% of qualified expenses, capped at $1,200 annually for energy property costs and an additional $2,000 for qualified heat pumps. Ensure compliance with energy.gov guidelines to include expenses related to doors, windows, air conditioning, and insulation materials. Additionally, explore Residential Clean Energy Credits for qualifying expenses related to solar and alternative energy sources, offering potential tax advantages for environmentally conscious choices.

Pass-Through Entity (PTE) Regime:

Given the $10,000 limitation on state and local tax deductions for individuals, assess the advantages of participating in the Pass-Through Entity (PTE) tax regime. Many states allow pass-through entities to pay and deduct the full state taxes on behalf of partners/shareholders. If you receive substantial income from a partnership or S corporation, consider engaging in the PTE tax regime when recommended by the entity representative. Alternatively, if you hold a significant stake in a pass-through entity not currently electing this option, it’s worthwhile to explore whether participating makes sense for your overall tax strategy.

Retirement Account Contributions:

Strengthen your financial foundation and simultaneously impact your tax liabilities by directing funds into your 401(k) or IRA. Capitalize on valuable tax advantages, including tax-deferred growth and potential deductions. For the tax year 2023, individuals can contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k), with an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution for those aged 50 or older. Traditional IRA contributions are capped at $6,500, with a $1,000 catch-up provision for individuals over 50. Remember to make contributions by April 15, 2024, to qualify for the 2023 tax year. This proactive approach allows you to fortify your financial future while making a meaningful impact on your tax obligations.

Taking a proactive approach to tax planning can yield significant benefits for your next tax bill. Strategically assessing your financial landscape and implementing these practical tips can help you navigate the complexities of the 2023 tax year.

Every business owner should have an exit strategy that helps recoup the maximum amount for his or her investment. Understanding the tax implications of a business sale will help you plan for — and, in some cases, reduce — the tax impact. One option is to sell your business to a third party. Here are some considerations to help ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Maximizing value

Start by obtaining a professional valuation of your business to give you an idea of what the business is currently worth. The valuation process also will help you understand what factors drive the value of your business and identify any weaknesses that reduce its value.

Once you’ve received a valuation, you can make changes to enhance the business’s value and potentially increase the selling price. For example, if the valuator finds that the business relies too heavily on your management skills, bringing in new management talent may make the business more valuable to a prospective buyer.

A valuation can also reveal concentration risks. For instance, if a significant portion of your business is concentrated in a handful of customers or one geographical area, you could take steps to diversify your customer base.

Structuring the sale

Corporate sellers generally prefer selling stock rather than assets. That’s because the profit on a stock sale is generally taxable at more favorable long-term capital gains rates, while asset sales generate a combination of capital gains and ordinary income. For a business with large amounts of depreciated machinery and equipment, asset sales can generate significant ordinary income in the form of depreciation recapture. (Note: The tax rate on recaptured depreciation of certain real estate is capped at 25%.)

In addition, if your company is a C corporation, an asset sale can trigger double taxation: once at the corporate level and a second time when the proceeds are distributed to shareholders as a dividend. In a stock sale, the buyer acquires the stock directly from the shareholders, so there’s no corporate-level tax.

Buyers, on the other hand, almost always prefer to buy assets, especially for equipment-intensive businesses, such as manufacturers. Acquiring assets provides the buyer with a fresh tax basis in the assets for depreciation purposes and allows the buyer to avoid assuming the seller’s liabilities.

Allocating the purchase price

Given the significant advantages of buying assets, most buyers are reluctant to purchase stock. But even in an asset sale, there are strategies for a seller to employ to minimize the tax hit. One strategy is to negotiate a favorable allocation of the purchase price. Although tax rules require the purchase price allocation to be reasonable in light of the assets’ market values, the IRS will generally respect an allocation agreed on by unrelated parties.

As a seller, you’ll want to allocate as much of the price as possible to assets that generate capital gains, such as goodwill and certain other intangible assets. The buyer will prefer allocations to assets eligible for accelerated depreciation, such as machinery and equipment. However, depreciable assets are likely to generate ordinary income for the seller.

Allocating a portion of the purchase price to goodwill can be a good compromise between the parties’ conflicting interests. Sellers enjoy capital gains treatment while buyers can generally amortize goodwill over 15 years for tax purposes.

If your company is a C corporation, establishing that a portion of goodwill is attributable to personal goodwill — that is, goodwill associated with the reputations of the individual owners rather than the enterprise — can be particularly advantageous. That’s because payments for personal goodwill are made directly to the shareholders, avoiding double taxation.

You may need to take certain steps to transfer personal goodwill to the buyer. This may include executing an employment or consulting agreement that defines your responsibility for ensuring that the buyer enjoys the benefits of your ability to attract and retain customers. Buyers may want a noncompete agreement. These are common in private business sales and can help protect the buyer from competition from the seller after the deal closes.

Get started now

Different strategies can help you enhance your business’s value and minimize taxes, but they may take some time to put into place. Whatever your exit strategy, the earlier you start planning, the better.

Sidebar: Should you set up an ESOP?

An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) might be a viable exit strategy if your business is organized as a corporation and you’re not interested in leaving it to your family or selling to an outsider. An ESOP creates a market for your stock, allowing you to cash out of the business and transfer control to the next generation of owners gradually.

An ESOP is a qualified retirement plan that invests in the company’s stock. Benefits to business owners include the ability to:

ESOPs also provide significant tax benefits to the company, including tax deductions for contributions to the ESOP to cover stock purchases and (in the case of a leveraged ESOP) loan payments. S corporations may avoid taxes on income passed through to shares held by the ESOP.

But there are some downsides, too. For example, ESOPs are subject to many of the same rules and restrictions as 401(k) and other employer-sponsored plans. And they can involve significant administrative costs, including annual appraisals of the company’s stock. Contact your tax advisor to discuss if an ESOP is right for your business.

© 2023

Gaining a competitive edge in today’s market requires more than understanding one’s financials. It requires using financial metrics strategically to enhance business success. The Profit Margin Ratio is a crucial financial metric that predicts future viability and competitiveness.

Understanding the Profit Margin Ratio

Profit margins allow businesses to identify operational efficiencies or deficiencies. It’s not about the total dollars earned. This ratio reveals what percentage of sales remains after covering the costs, providing a clear view of profitability.

Profit Margin Ratios come in 3 types: Gross, Operating, and Net. Each offers unique insights:

For example, with $1 million in revenue, a company’s Gross Profit Margin at a direct cost of $600,000 is 40%. If operating expenses are $200,000, the Operating Margin drops to 20%, and after $100,000 in additional expenses, the Net Profit Margin is 10%.

With these metrics, businesses can pinpoint where to cut costs or where to invest, ensuring sustained growth and profitability.

How Profit Margins Management Improved Profitability

By monitoring these margins, you can drive improved profitability, effective cost management, and enhanced operational efficiency. They can act as a warning flag to help identify areas to look into when things might not be right. For instance, while a strong Gross Profit Margin alongside a weak Net Profit Margin might show excessive administrative costs; conversely, a weak Gross Profit Margin with a strong Net Profit Margin could signal the need for pricing adjustments to better align with costs, both of which can guide you to specific improvements.

Implementing Profit Margin Analysis for Business Growth

Here are 5 steps you can take to implement profit margin analysis into your business:

Mastering Profit Margin Ratios equips you with the foresight to shape your business’s future. This financial mastery is a map guiding you toward sustainable growth and success. Embrace these insights, and with precision and the right tools, your business is on track to reach its fullest potential.

The Social Security Administration recently announced that the wage base for computing Social Security tax will increase to $168,600 for 2024 (up from $160,200 for 2023). Wages and self-employment income above this threshold aren’t subject to Social Security tax.

Basic details

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes two taxes on employers, employees and self-employed workers — one for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance, which is commonly known as the Social Security tax, and the other for Hospital Insurance, which is commonly known as the Medicare tax.

There’s a maximum amount of compensation subject to the Social Security tax, but no maximum for Medicare tax. For 2024, the FICA tax rate for employers will be 7.65% — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare (the same as in 2023).

2024 updates

For 2024, an employee will pay:

For 2024, the self-employment tax imposed on self-employed people will be:

Employees with more than one employer

You may have questions if an employee who works for your business has a second job. That employee would have taxes withheld from two different employers. Can the employee ask you to stop withholding Social Security tax once he or she reaches the wage base threshold? The answer is no. Each employer must withhold Social Security taxes from the individual’s wages, even if the combined withholding exceeds the maximum amount that can be imposed for the year. Fortunately, the employee will get a credit on his or her tax return for any excess withheld.

We’re here to help

Do you have questions about payroll tax filing or payments? Contact us. We’ll help ensure you stay in compliance.

© 2023

In an era of growing environmental awareness and the push for sustainable living, homeowners are more interested than ever in upgrading their living spaces to be energy-efficient. However, it’s not just about saving the planet—it’s also about saving money. The U.S. government, recognizing the importance of these measures, has provided an enticing incentive: The Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Credit. Here’s everything you need to know about this tax relief opportunity.

Unlocking Tax Savings: What is the Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Credit?

The Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Credit is an initiative by the IRS designed to encourage homeowners to make eco-friendly home upgrades. If you have made any qualifying energy-efficient improvements to your home since January 1, 2023, you may be eligible for this credit, where the savings could be substantial.

Breaking Down the Benefits: What Improvements Qualify?

The first step in determining eligibility is determining what improvements qualify. The following energy-efficient improvements, when in line with requirements set on energy.gov, can make you eligible for the credit:

Crunching the Numbers: How Much Can You Save?

Once you have determined which improvements qualify, you might wonder what the savings could be if you claimed the credit. The potential savings can be significant. Here’s a breakdown:

The silver lining? There is no lifetime dollar limit on this credit. If you make eligible improvements annually, you can claim the maximum amount every year until 2033.

If you use your home for business, there are special considerations where you could be eligible to claim a percentage of the credit, even 100%.

If this applies to you, it is best to talk with an accountant about the most beneficial use of this credit.

Claiming the Credit: Things to Remember

Here are some essential pointers to keep in mind:

Harnessing Energy Efficiency for Financial Efficiency

While making your home more energy-efficient is a commendable step toward sustainability, it also offers financial benefits. The Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Credit is an avenue worth exploring for homeowners. By staying informed and making timely upgrades, you can contribute to a greener planet and enjoy tangible tax savings.

Are you wondering if your energy-efficient choices will qualify for this tax credit? Hamilton Tharp is here to help. Reach out to us, and let’s map out a greener, cost-efficient future for your home.

For more details and regular updates, keep an eye on Hamilton Tharp’s insights on tax savings and financial strategies.

In business, where every decision can tip the scales of success or failure, a robust financial strategy is imperative. Enter Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) – an often underappreciated yet pivotal function that can revolutionize how businesses plan, analyze, and project their financial future.

The Essence of FP&A in Accounting

What exactly is FP&A? At its core, FP&A serves as the bridge between strategic planning and its execution. It’s the analytical arm of the finance department, scrutinizing past performances and forecasting future trends. While traditional accounting looks backward, detailing where a company has been, FP&A looks forward, charting where it’s headed. It complements the accounting function by bringing an analytical and predictive dimension to the table. Together, they provide a holistic view of a company’s financial health.

Adding Value and More Than Just Number Crunching Through FP&A

FP&A is more than a tool reserved for accountants or financial experts. It’s an invaluable financial guide that acts as a compass for every entrepreneur and project manager. This financial guide offers:

By analyzing financial trends, FP&A drives strategic direction, ensures profitable revenues, and assists in budgeting and forecasting. It’s no wonder that businesses integrating FP&A report a 30% increase in forecast accuracy.

The Need for Agile FP&A

The business world is in constant flux. The days of static annual reviews have been left behind. With rapidly changing market dynamics, agility in financial planning isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. This fluid approach ensures that businesses remain proactive, ready to seize opportunities or avoid impending challenges.

Challenges Addressed by FP&A:

 Steps to Seamlessly Integrate FP&A in Project Planning

Conclusion: Navigating Tomorrow with FP&A Today

By understanding the nuances of FP&A and weaving it into business processes, companies can make informed decisions, minimize risks, and amplify profitability. In the unpredictable world of modern commerce, FP&A stands as a trusted compass, guiding firms towards a brighter future.

Inheritance brings its own set of challenges. Within the vast world of financial legacies, inherited Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) stand out thanks to their annual withdrawal requirements, also known as Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). With these RMDs comes the caveat of taxation. However, when the Secure Act of 2019 was introduced, it brought clarity and confusion, mainly by introducing new beneficiary categories.

The Secure Act’s Beneficiary Categories Decoded

The Secure Act ushered in three beneficiary categories, each with distinct withdrawal rules:

Many beneficiaries, particularly NEDBs, found these rules intricate. The real task was classifying themselves correctly and adhering to the associated RMD rules to avoid tax penalties.

The IRS Offers Clarification and Relief

In response to the confusion stemming from the Secure Act’s implementation, the IRS released Notice 2022-53 in October 2022. For those beneficiaries whose original IRA owner had begun their RMDs, they must commence their own RMDs in the year following the owner’s passing. Furthermore, the complete balance should be dispensed by the 10th year after the owner’s death.

Recognizing the challenges arising from the Secure Act, the IRS also waived penalties for NEDBs who missed RMDs in 2021 and 2022 to show its commitment to assist during these regulatory transitions.

Things to remember:

Empowering Beneficiaries with Actionable Steps

To navigate the inherited IRA terrain confidently, beneficiaries should:

Wrapping Up

Although financial regulations seem intimidating, beneficiaries can efficiently manage their inherited IRAs with the right guidance and proactive approach. By understanding their specific obligations under the Secure Act and seeking expert advice, beneficiaries can comply with regulations and make informed decisions that honor their inheritances and bolster their financial futures.

The SECURE 2.0 law, which was enacted last year, contains wide-ranging changes to retirement plans. One provision in the law is that eligible employers will soon be able to provide more help to staff members facing emergencies. This will be done through what the law calls “pension-linked emergency savings accounts.”

Effective for plan years beginning January 1, 2024, SECURE 2.0 permits a plan sponsor to amend its 401(k), 403(b) or government 457(b) plan to offer emergency savings accounts that are connected to the plan.

Basic Distribution Rules

If a retirement plan participant withdraws money from an employer plan before reaching age 59½, a 10% additional tax or penalty generally applies unless an exception exists. This is on top of the ordinary tax that may be due.

The goal of these emergency accounts is to encourage employees to save for retirement while still providing access to their savings if emergencies arise. Under current law, there are specific exceptions when employees can withdraw money from their accounts without paying the additional 10% penalty but they don’t include all of the emergencies that an individual may face. For example, while participants can take penalty-free distributions to pay eligible medical expenses, they can’t take them for car repairs.

Here are some features of pension-linked emergency savings accounts:

Another Option to Help Employees

In addition to these accounts, SECURE 2.0 adds a new exception for certain retirement plan distributions used for emergency expenses, which are defined as unforeseeable or immediate financial needs relating to personal or family emergencies. Only one distribution of up to $1,000 is permitted a year, and a taxpayer has the option to repay the distribution within three years. This provision is effective for distributions beginning January 1, 2024.

Determine Whether There’s Time

In addition to what is outlined here, other rules apply to pension-linked emergency savings accounts. The IRS is likely to issue additional guidance in the next few months. Be aware that plan sponsors don’t have to offer these accounts and many employers may find that they need more time to establish them before 2024. Or they may decide there are too many administrative hurdles to clear. Contact us with questions.

© 2023

As a business owner, your goal is to ensure your venture thrives and prospers. An essential aspect of this journey involves maintaining a clear, accurate financial perspective that allows you to make informed decisions. But what happens when accounting errors creep into this clear vision? These unintentional mistakes can significantly hinder your business’s growth and profitability.

By understanding these errors, their implications, and ways to prevent them, you can maintain the financial health of your organization and keep your business on a growth trajectory. This article delves into common accounting errors that impede business growth and how to avoid them.

Accounting Errors: A Silent Growth Inhibitor

Accounting errors are unintentional inaccuracies in your financial books. These can be clerical mistakes or incorrect applications of accounting principles, ranging from duplicate entries to record omissions. While they may seem minor, these errors can lead to significant financial discrepancies, skew your business’s financial health perception, and potentially impede growth.

Breaking Down Accounting Errors: Unraveling the Most Common Mistakes

Several common types of accounting errors can negatively affect your business. Let’s look at a few of the common errors, and what the effects could be:

Common Errors

Error of Original Entry

when an incorrect amount is posted to an account, which could result in skewed financial reports and affect your decision-making.

Errors of Duplication

lead to incorrect perceptions of expenses.

Errors of Omission could cause under-reporting of your liabilities or income.
Errors of Entry Reversal where debits are recorded as credits and vice versa, can affect your understanding of financial position and performance.
Errors of Principle which involve misapplication of accounting principles, can lead to misclassification of your expenses or assets.
Error of Commission happens when an entry is posted correctly to an account but incorrectly to a subsidiary account, creating confusion and mismanagement of client accounts or vendor payments.

Compensating Errors

where one error offsets another, can mask actual problems, leading to potential financial crises.

Recognizing and rectifying accounting errors in your business operations holds immense value. For example:

Perhaps most critically, it safeguards your business against potential financial crises by unmasking issues that may otherwise be hidden. Proactively identifying and addressing accounting errors is a proactive step toward financial accuracy, operational efficiency, and sustainable business growth.

Unlocking Sustainable Business Growth: Effective Strategies to Prevent Common Accounting Errors

Now that we understand the potential pitfalls, let’s focus on how you can prevent these errors from stunting your business’s growth.

While keeping these errors at bay may seem challenging, remember that every step toward error-free accounting is a step toward your business’s sustainable growth.

In Conclusion

Accounting errors can be more than a mere annoyance. They can obscure the financial health of your business, leading to misinformed decisions and hindering growth. By understanding and preventing these errors, you safeguard your financial records and gain reliable insights to propel your business forward. Remember, an accurate financial perspective is key to informed decision-making and, ultimately, the success of your venture.

 

If you operate your small business as a sole proprietorship, you may have thought about forming a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your assets. Or maybe you’re launching a new business and want to know your options for setting it up. Here are the basics of operating as an LLC and why it might be a good choice for your business.

An LLC is a bit of a hybrid entity because it can be structured to resemble a corporation for owner liability purposes and a partnership for federal tax purposes. This duality may provide the owners with the best of both worlds.

Protecting Your Personal Assets

Like the shareholders of a corporation, the owners of an LLC (called “members” rather than shareholders or partners) generally aren’t liable for the debts of the business except to the extent of their investment. Thus, the owners can operate the business with the security of knowing that their personal assets are protected from the entity’s creditors. This protection is much greater than that afforded by partnerships. In a partnership, the general partners are personally liable for the debts of the business. Even limited partners, if they actively participate in managing the business, can have personal liability.

Tax Issues

The owners of an LLC can elect under the “check-the-box” rules to have the entity treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes. This can provide a number of benefits to the owners. For example, partnership earnings aren’t subject to an entity-level tax. Instead, they “flow through” to the owners, in proportion to the owners’ respective interests in profits, and are reported on the owners’ individual returns and taxed only once.

To the extent the income passed through to you is qualified business income, you’ll be eligible to take the Section 199A pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. (However, keep in mind that the pass-through deduction is temporary. It’s available through 2025, unless Congress acts to extend it.)
In addition, since you’re actively managing the business, you can deduct on your individual tax return your ratable shares of any losses the business generates. This, in effect, allows you to shelter other income that you (and your spouse, if you’re married) may have.

An LLC that’s taxable as a partnership can provide special allocations of tax benefits to specific partners. This can be a notable reason for using an LLC over an S corporation (a form of business that provides tax treatment that’s similar to a partnership). Another reason for using an LLC over an S corp is that LLCs aren’t subject to the restrictions the federal tax code imposes on S corps regarding the number of owners and the types of ownership interests that may be issued.

Consider All Angles

In conclusion, an LLC can give you corporate-like protection from creditors while providing the benefits of taxation as a partnership. For these reasons, you may want to consider operating your business as an LLC. Contact us to discuss in more detail how an LLC might be an appropriate choice for you and the other owners.

© 2023

If you play a major role in a closely held corporation, you may sometimes spend money on corporate expenses personally. These costs may end up being nondeductible both by an officer and the corporation unless the correct steps are taken. This issue is more likely to happen with a financially troubled corporation.

What can’t you deduct?

In general, you can’t deduct an expense you incur on behalf of your corporation, even if it’s a legitimate “trade or business” expense and even if the corporation is financially troubled. This is because a taxpayer can only deduct expenses that are his own. And since your corporation’s legal existence as a separate entity must be respected, the corporation’s costs aren’t yours and thus can’t be deducted even if you pay them.

To make matters worse, the corporation won’t generally be able to deduct them either because it didn’t pay them itself. Accordingly, be advised that it shouldn’t be a practice of your corporation’s officers or major shareholders to cover corporate costs.

What expenses may be deductible?

On the other hand, if a corporate executive incurs costs that relate to an essential part of his or her duties as an executive, they may be deductible as ordinary and necessary expenses related to his or her “trade or business” of being an executive. If you wish to set up an arrangement providing payments to you and safeguarding their deductibility, a provision should be included in your employment contract with the corporation stating the types of expenses which are part of your duties and authorizing you to incur them. For example, you may be authorized to attend out-of-town business conferences on the corporation’s behalf at your personal expense.

What’s the best alternative?

Alternatively, to avoid the complete loss of any deductions by both yourself and the corporation, an arrangement should be in place under which the corporation reimburses you for the expenses you incur. Turn the receipts over to the corporation and use an expense reimbursement claim form or system. This will at least allow the corporation to deduct the amount of the reimbursement.

Contact us if you’d like assistance or would like to discuss these issues further.

© 2023

If you own an unincorporated small business, you probably don’t like the size of your self-employment (SE) tax bills. No wonder!

For 2023, the SE tax is imposed at the painfully high rate of 15.3% on the first $160,200 of net SE income. This includes 12.4% for Social Security tax and 2.9% for Medicare tax. The $160,200 Social Security tax ceiling is up from the $147,000 ceiling for 2022, and it’s only going to get worse in future years, thanks to inflation. Above the Social Security tax ceiling, the Medicare tax component of the SE tax continues at a 2.9% rate before increasing to 3.8% at higher levels of net SE income thanks to the 0.9% additional Medicare tax, on all income.

The S Corp Advantage

For wages paid in 2023 to an S corporation employee, including an employee who also happens to be a shareholder, the FICA tax wage withholding rate is 7.65% on the first $160,200 of wages: 6.2% for Social Security tax and 1.45% for Medicare tax. Above $160,200, the FICA tax wage withholding rate drops to 1.45% because the Social Security tax component is no longer imposed. But the 1.45% Medicare tax wage withholding hits compensation no matter how much you earn, and the rate increases to 2.35% at higher compensation levels thanks to the 0.9% additional Medicare tax.

An S corporation employer makes matching payments except for the 0.9% Additional Medicare tax, which only falls on the employee. Therefore, the combined employee and employer FICA tax rate for the Social Security tax is 12.4%, and the combined rate for the Medicare tax is 2.9%, increasing to 3.8% at higher compensation levels — same as the corresponding SE tax rates.

Note: In this article, we’ll refer to the Social Security and Medicare taxes collectively as federal employment taxes whether paid as SE tax for self-employed folks or FICA tax for employees.

Strategy: Become an S Corporation

While wages paid to an S corporation shareholder-employee get hit with federal employment taxes, any remaining S corp taxable income that’s passed through to the employee-shareholder is exempt from federal employment taxes. The same is true for cash distributions paid out to a shareholder-employee. Since passed-through S corporation taxable income increases the tax basis of a shareholder-employee’s stock, distributions of corporate cash flow are usually free from federal income tax.

In appropriate circumstances, an S corp can follow the tax-saving strategy of paying modest, but justifiable, salaries to shareholder-employees. At the same time, it can pay out most or all of the remaining corporate cash flow in the form of federal-employment-tax-free shareholder distributions. In contrast, an owner’s share of net taxable income from a sole proprietorship, partnership and LLC (treated as a partnership for tax purposes) is generally subject to the full ravages of the SE tax.

Potential Negative Side Effect

Running your business as an S corporation and paying modest salaries to the shareholder-employee(s) may mean reduced capacity to make deductible contributions to tax-favored retirement accounts. For example, if an S corporation maintains a SEP, the maximum annual deductible contribution for a shareholder-employee is limited to 25% of salary. So the lower the salary, the lower the maximum contribution. However, if the S corp sets up a 401(k) plan, paying modest salaries generally won’t preclude generous contributions.

Other Implications

Converting an unincorporated business into an S corporation has other legal and tax implications. It’s a big decision. We can explain all the issues.

© 2023

If you own or manage a business with employees, there’s a harsh tax penalty that you could be at risk for paying personally. The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP) applies to Social Security and income taxes that are withheld by a business from its employees’ wages.

Sweeping Penalty

The TFRP is dangerous because it applies to a broad range of actions and to a wide range of people involved in a business.

Here are some answers to questions about the penalty:

What actions are penalized? The TFRP applies to any willful failure to collect, or truthfully account for, and pay over taxes required to be withheld from employees’ wages.

Why is it so harsh? Taxes are considered the government’s property. The IRS explains that Social Security and income taxes “are called trust fund taxes because you actually hold the employee’s money in trust until you make a federal tax deposit in that amount.”

The penalty is sometimes called the “100% penalty” because the person found liable is personally penalized 100% of the taxes due. The amounts the IRS seeks are usually substantial and the IRS is aggressive in enforcing the penalty.

Who’s at risk? The penalty can be imposed on anyone “responsible” for collecting and paying tax. This has been broadly defined to include a corporation’s officers, directors and shareholders, a partnership’s partners and any employee with related duties. In some circumstances, voluntary board members of tax-exempt organizations have been subject to this penalty. In other cases, responsibility has been extended to professional advisors and family members close to the business.

According to the IRS, responsibility is a matter of status, duty and authority. Anyone with the power to see that taxes are (or aren’t) paid may be responsible. There’s often more than one responsible person in a business, but each is at risk for the entire penalty. You may not be directly involved with the payroll tax withholding process in your business. But if you learn of a failure to pay withheld taxes and have the power to pay them, you become a responsible person. Although taxpayers held liable can sue other responsible people for contribution, this action must be taken entirely on their own after the TFRP is paid.

What’s considered willful? There doesn’t have to be an overt intent to evade taxes. Simply paying bills or obtaining supplies instead of paying over withheld taxes is willful behavior. And just because you delegate responsibilities to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook. Failing to do the job yourself can be treated as willful.

Recent Cases

Here are two cases that illustrate the risks.

Best Advice

Under no circumstances should you “borrow” from withheld amounts. All funds withheld should be paid over to the government on time. Contact us with any questions.

© 2023

As a small business owner, every decision you make can significantly impact your business’s financial health and profitability. Among your numerous choices, selecting the right accounting method for your business stands out for its importance. The accounting method you opt for shapes your business’s bookkeeping practices, affects your financial reporting, tax liabilities, and profitability, and influences your future decisions. This article aims to demystify the two primary accounting methods – cash and accrual accounting, helping you understand their implications and selecting the most appropriate one for your business’s needs.

Understanding Cash and Accrual Accounting

At the core of accounting lie two main methods: cash-based and accrual-based accounting. Each approach has pros and cons and varies in suitability depending on your business’s size, scale, and nature.

Cash-Based Accounting: This method, characterized by simplicity and straightforwardness, records transactions only when cash is received or paid. It provides a clear picture of your actual cash flow, making it an ideal choice for small businesses, sole proprietors, or companies operating without inventory or on a purely cash basis. However, it’s worth noting that while this method helps you monitor your cash inflows and outflows closely, it might not offer a comprehensive overview of your financial health since it doesn’t account for outstanding receivables or payables.

Accrual-Based Accounting: Though more complex, this method provides a comprehensive picture of your financial status. Accrual-based accounting records income and expenses as earned or incurred, regardless of the actual cash transaction’s timing. It accounts for receivables, payables, assets, and liabilities, offering a real-time snapshot of your business’s financial status. This method benefits larger companies dealing with inventory, credit transactions, or businesses that are required to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). However, it may seem overwhelming for small businesses due to its complexity and the resources required to maintain detailed records.

Choosing Between Cash and Accrual Accounting

Deciding between cash-based and accrual-based accounting requires careful consideration of several key factors:

  1. Nature and Size of Your Business: Cash-based accounting could be suitable if your business is relatively small and operates mainly on a cash basis without inventory. Conversely, accrual accounting might provide the detailed insights you need if your operations involve credit transactions, inventory, and a higher volume of transactions.
  2. Regulatory Requirements: According to regulatory requirements like GAAP, certain businesses must use accrual-based accounting. Understanding the regulations relevant to your industry and business size is important.
  3. Ease of Use vs. Comprehensive Overview: While cash-based accounting is simple and intuitive, making it ideal for small businesses, accrual-based accounting provides a detailed overview of your financial health, which is crucial for strategic decision-making.
  4. Financial Management Software: Various financial management software options are available today that cater to both accounting methods. FreshBooks, for instance, can be an excellent choice for cash-based accounting, while QuickBooks Online is highly suitable for businesses using accrual accounting.
  5. Business Goals and Available Resources: Consider your business goals and the resources you have at your disposal. If growth and expansion are your priorities, accrual accounting may provide the comprehensive financial perspective needed. However, cash-based accounting may serve you better if you focus on simplicity and effective cash flow management. Remember that accrual accounting, while comprehensive, may require more time and resources for record-keeping.

 

Remember, choosing an accounting method is not merely about understanding numbers; it’s about using this understanding to make informed decisions that align with your business’s financial goals. By selecting the right accounting method – cash or accrual – you can gain valuable insights into your business’s financial health and make decisions that steer your business toward a profitable future. The right choice will empower you, equipping you with the financial clarity necessary to successfully navigate your business’s financial landscape.

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the third quarter of 2023. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

July 31 

August 10 

September 15

© 2023

When managing a business, KPIs can help provide insight into the business’s current health and past health. But what if you could use the data available to predict what KPIs will be in the future based on certain business decisions? With data science and machine learning, predictive analytics can be a reality for your business.

AI, Data Science, and Your Business

In recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the amount of information available have grown exponentially, making integrating newer technologies into your business seem daunting or expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. AI uses data available to predict the outcomes of different business decisions on different levels. With the right models, AI can predict current customer preferences to help drive product development and forecast future demand.

Roadblocks in Data Science Integration

As a CFO or business owner, you may find some hang-ups incorporating data science into your business strategy and reporting. With many other aspects of the business pulling your focus, you might find you’re continually attaching the label “later” to the project. Even if it’s not front of mind, it is an important task that could help you make better business decisions. In addition, the cost and time associated with implementing forward-thinking KPIs into strategy aren’t as expensive as you might think because jumping right in with a complete overhaul of your KPI dashboard and reporting programs is unnecessary. Getting started can be simplified by following the below steps.

Trust the People Who Know the Data

While it may seem intuitive to give the data scientists and IT team cart blanche in implementing the AI programs, telling them to do what they do best, it’s essential to include the people who know your prospective client the best, as they are better versed in what questions to ask to get the answers they need to improve strategy. Look to your marketing, business development, and revenue teams to help guide this direction.

Decide What Data is Core

Implementing new predictive data science into your business strategy can be a massive, time-consuming task. Start by identifying the most critical KPIs and working with data to help move those numbers. Once you’ve identified your metrics, check if other businesses have tracked those metrics previously. There’s likely a framework you can follow instead of starting from scratch with data like transactional information, web analytics, and social media, saving you time.

Understand Predictive Data Needs

Most marketing teams share similar challenges and goals when obtaining new clients. Focus on how your team measures ROI regarding acquisition, retention, and engagement and use that to generate future predictions. From there, analyze clients by predicting their lifetime value a few days after acquisition, then again at 7, 14, 30, and 180 days.

Change Your Outlook to Focus on the Future

Once you have started to look at predictive insights to impact core KPIs, continue to look toward the future instead of falling back into habits of reviewing a snapshot of the past. Doing so will allow you to make decisions on which types of clients to focus on and where to invest your marketing and business development resources.

Embracing the recent advances in data science can help more efficiently direct your business’s time and resources to tasks that will improve your business’s performance.

As we approach the halfway point of 2023, it’s the perfect opportunity to evaluate your business tax planning and determine ways to decrease your tax burden. Employing the right strategies can reduce your taxes, optimize your cash flow, and enhance your long-term financial success.

In this article, we’ll introduce three tax strategies for 2023: Roth IRA conversions, tax loss harvesting, and year-round charitable giving. By familiarizing yourself with these tactics and how they can benefit your enterprise, you can make well-informed decisions and capitalize on available tax savings. Let’s dive into these tax-saving concepts and explore the options available for your business.

The Benefits of Roth IRA Conversions for Your Retirement Plan

Roth IRA conversions effectively transform a portion of your traditional IRA into a tax-free asset that can provide you with cash distributions in your retirement years. Converting a portion of your traditional IRA can save you taxes at a potentially lower marginal tax rate and create a tax-free asset that can serve as a mechanism for tax redistribution during retirement. Even better, consider using this strategy as a future legacy asset for your beneficiaries.

By converting to a Roth IRA, you can ensure your desired assets are passed onto your loved ones.

Tax Loss Harvesting

Tax loss harvesting is a strategy that involves taking advantage of market volatility to generate a tax asset using captured capital losses. These losses can be used to offset future capital gains, and any remaining losses can be used to offset gains in subsequent years. Another effective strategy involves pairing these losses with qualified opportunity zones, which can further reduce your tax liabilities.

Investors who suffered losses due to the steep decline of the cryptocurrency and stock markets can benefit from this approach. The recent market downturn could also lead more investors to opportunity zone funds, presenting an excellent opportunity to maximize tax benefits.

Year-Round Charitable Giving

End-of-year charitable donations have long been a go-to for taxpayers seeking tax deductions. However, there are benefits to giving year-round, especially when combined with investments.

For example, investors with appreciated securities in a taxable account can use these securities to fulfill their philanthropic goals. This strategy allows for a fair market value deduction without having to pay taxes on the capital gain. It’s a practical way to donate without sacrificing your end-of-the-year cash or check donation.

Charitable remainder trusts offer another means of donating to worthwhile causes and taking advantage of tax breaks. Although the lower interest rates over the last few years have cooled investor interest in these trusts, the benefits of using these trusts become increasingly clear as rates rise.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to give back. Consider these charitable giving strategies to boost your philanthropic impact and build a better future.

Actionable Key Takeaways

Remember, it’s essential to review your tax planning regularly to take advantage of available opportunities and ensure you’re putting your assets to their best use. With these actionable takeaways, you can start making informed decisions today and set your business up for long-term financial success.

 

The IRS recently released guidance providing the 2024 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

HSA Fundamentals

An HSA is a trust created or organized exclusively for the purpose of paying the “qualified medical expenses” of an “account beneficiary.” An HSA can only be established for the benefit of an “eligible individual” who is covered under a “high-deductible health plan.” In addition, a participant can’t be enrolled in Medicare or have other health coverage (exceptions include dental, vision, long-term care, accident and specific disease insurance).

Within specified dollar limits, an above-the-line tax deduction is allowed for an individual’s contributions to an HSA. This annual contribution limitation and the annual deductible and out-of-pocket expenses under the tax code are adjusted annually for inflation.

Inflation Adjustments for Next Year

In Revenue Procedure 2023-23, the IRS released the 2024 inflation-adjusted figures for contributions to HSAs, which are as follows:

Annual contribution limitation. For calendar year 2024, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP will be $4,150. For an individual with family coverage, the amount will be $8,300. This is up from $3,850 and $7,750, respectively, in 2023.

There is an additional $1,000 “catch-up” contribution amount for those age 55 and older in 2024 (and 2023).

High-deductible health plan defined. For calendar year 2024, an HDHP will be a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,600 for self-only coverage or $3,200 for family coverage (up from $1,500 and $3,000, respectively, in 2023). In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) won’t be able to exceed $8,050 for self-only coverage or $16,100 for family coverage (up from $7,500 and $15,000, respectively, in 2023).

Advantages of HSAs

There are a variety of benefits to HSAs. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate tax-free year after year and can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care and premiums for long-term care insurance. In addition, an HSA is “portable.” It stays with an account holder if he or she changes employers or leaves the workforce. Contact your employee benefits and tax advisors if you have questions about HSAs at your business.

© 2023

As a business owner, you understand the importance of making the right decisions and keeping your finances to survive. When you want to thrive, however, you need the kind of insight and experience that will drive strategy and deliver results. The sharp financial perspective of a CFO can make a world of difference in a company’s success, but hiring one isn’t always feasible or affordable. Enter the Chief Financial Officer consultant. A CFO consultant can assess your financial situation, market nuances, and industry outlook to bring the big picture into focus. Keep reading to learn how the perspective of a CFO can benefit your business.

The Role of the CFO

While you may think of a CFO as another accountant or finance-focused person, the reality is much more complex. The best CFOs are responsible for many essential business tasks and decisions, which business owners may need more time or knowledge to focus on. The role of the CFO means looking at the past to find the best ways to drive the present into the future the organization wants. They work with budgets, forecasts, vendor relationships, tax strategy, compliance, succession planning, and more to guide other leaders toward a unified goal.

The CFOs Perspective

When you bring a CFO on full-time, they look for ways to save costs and drive additional financial growth for the organization. Some of the ways they do this are by working with the following:

Working with an outsourced Chief Financial Officer provides a level of expertise based on experience with other clients who are either within your industry or have been through similar situations. This experience allows them to provide scalable knowledge and assistance without the hours of research a business owner or manager may have to complete for the same results. The CFO is focused on the larger picture and understands which details will make a difference in the future of the business.

The cost of bringing on a full-time CFO is unrealistic for many businesses, but that doesn’t mean they need to go without a CFO perspective. CFO consultants, or outsourced CFOs, provide the value of a CFO without being cost-prohibitive. Many businesses that work with an outsourced CFO experience cost-savings or revenue growth that either makes up for or outpaces the outlay for the consulting service.

Whether you’ve hit a wall or feel like your business could be doing so much more, there are many reasons to seek an outsider’s perspective. Don’t leave this critical task to just anyone; work with someone who has experience directing businesses through important decisions. They can help you face strategic challenges, deliberate on new avenues of growth, or convert decisions into action.

If you’re ready to bring in the expertise of a CFO, contact our professionals here.

If you’re the owner of an incorporated business, you know there’s a tax advantage to taking money out of a C corporation as compensation rather than as dividends. The reason: A corporation can deduct the salaries and bonuses that it pays executives, but not dividend payments. Therefore, if funds are paid as dividends, they’re taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is only taxed once — to the employee who receives it.

However, there are limits to how much money you can take out of the corporation this way. Under tax law, compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it’s reasonable. Any unreasonable portion isn’t deductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. Keep in mind that the IRS is generally more interested in unreasonable compensation payments made to someone “related” to a corporation, such as a shareholder-employee or a member of a shareholder’s family.

Steps to Help Protect Yourself

There’s no simple way to determine what’s reasonable. If the IRS audits your tax return, it will examine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under similar circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include the employee’s duties and the amount of time spent on those duties, as well as the employee’s skills, expertise and compensation history. Other factors that may be reviewed are the complexities of the business and its gross and net income.

There are four steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered “reasonable,” and therefore deductible by your corporation:

You can avoid problems and challenges by planning ahead. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about your situation.

© 2023

Fraud. Scam. Phishing. Regardless of what you call these illicit activities, it’s important to protect yourself against the bad players that take advantage of weaknesses for their gain. Not only is it inconvenient, but there’s often a financial cost when you’re a victim of fraud.

The IRS releases an annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ list featuring the top taxpayer scams for the coming year. The list is certainly not exhaustive of every potential pitfall out there, but it is an excellent place to start educating yourself (and your team if you’re a business owner). Here’s a summary of the 2023 IRS Dirty Dozen.

Employer Retention Credit Promoters: Businesses have been targeted by companies claiming to help them submit tax returns and adjustments to take maximum advantage of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). These promoters collect a fee for preparation services, which is often tied to the value of the proposed credit. Usually, the targeted businesses don’t qualify for the credit, so when the adjustment claim is either rejected by the IRS or found to be incorrect during an audit, the business is out the funds paid to the promoter, as well as any monies received from the ERC they were not eligible for and potential IRS fees.

Phishing and Smishing Scams: Emails, texts, phone calls. These are all popular channels for scammers trying to obtain sensitive information from taxpayers by lying and saying they work for the IRS. Please remember that the IRS will always initiate contact with taxpayers by mail.

Online Account Assistance: The IRS Online Account tool provides helpful information to taxpayers. Scammers are using this as an opportunity to learn social security numbers and other sensitive information by calling and offering to help taxpayer set up their online accounts. This can lead to identity theft and a big headache for taxpayers trying to sort everything out.

Fuel Tax Credit Promoters: Like the Employee Retention Credit promotors, Fuel Tax Credit promoters claim that the taxpayer is qualified for the credit when they may not be. These scammers usually charge a big fee to assist the taxpayer in submitting these claims.

Fake Charity Scams: Major disasters like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires can lead to an increase in counterfeit charities to dupe taxpayers. When these disasters occur, people want to help those affected. Scammers take advantage of this generosity by using fake charities as a front for stealing money and private information. Be sure to take the time to thoroughly research any organization before donating.

Shady Tax Preparers: Common warning signs of a shady tax preparer include charging a fee based on the size of the refund or refusing to sign the form as a preparer as required by law. Make sure you’re using a trusted and knowledgeable tax preparer.

Social Media Trends: While this may seem unsurprising to most, it bears repeating – you can’t always trust what you hear on the internet. Social media can circulate misinformation quickly, including ‘hacks’ for getting a bigger tax refund. These trends usually involve lying on tax forms or creating false income. The IRS reminds taxpayers that falsifying tax documents is illegal and penalties are involved.

Spearphishing Email Scams: Bad players have been sending email requests to tax preparers, and payroll and human resources teams to try and gain sensitive client and employee data like W-2 information. These requests can look like they’re from a potential new client, and the scammers then use the data they collect to submit a series of false tax refund filings and collect on the tax returns. Businesses can protect themselves with these cybersecurity tips.

Offer in Compromise Mills: Promoters target taxpayers that owe the IRS money by offering to settle their debts with the IRS at a steep discount for a fee. Many times, the targeted taxpayers don’t meet the technical requirements to obtain an offer, meaning they still owe the IRS the same amount and are paying excessive fees to these companies. Taxpayers can check their eligibility for an Offer in Compromise using this free IRS tool.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust Schemes: Promoters can misuse Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts and monetized installment sales by misapplying the rules, leaving filers vulnerable. These types of schemes are often targeted at wealthy taxpayers.

Tax Avoidance Schemes: The IRS warns taxpayers to be wary of anyone claiming to reduce their taxes owed drastically or even to nothing. This could include micro-captive insurance arrangements, international accounts, and syndicated conservation easements.

Be diligent with your information, teach your employees how to recognize scams, and be sure to discuss any changes in tax strategy with your trusted tax professional. If anyone contacts you with a claim that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 

California taxpayers should note the changes made to these tax laws over the last several months. Here’s an overview of what you may have missed:

Unclaimed Property Law and CA AB 466

California law requires holders of unclaimed property to attempt to notify owners of the property regularly, to keep records of the property and to turn over the property to the State Controller’s Office after the appropriate dormancy period. Unclaimed property could be:

Under California Assembly Bill 466, the dormancy period has been set to one year for payroll accounts and three years for Securities, Accounts Receivable and Payable, and Disbursements. The law also requires businesses to review their books and records annually to determine if they have any unclaimed property to report. Keep in mind, businesses must also complete the following reporting requirements:

In addition, the State of California identifies the following filling and reporting deadlines:

Property Tax Compliance

Personal property owners in California will receive annual assessments and tax bills for the personal property based on their county or local jurisdiction laws. In order to stay in compliance with tax laws, keep these points in mind:

Pass-through Entity (PTE) Taxes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited the state tax deduction for personal income in pass-through entities to $10,000. In California, pass-through entities pay tax, and the PTE owns remain taxable on the distributive shares of income. However, the owners receive a tax credit for a share of the PTE tax. The nonrefundable tax credit can be carried forward for up to 5 years.

In order to qualify as a pass-through entity, the election must be made annually and consented to by each owner to the pass-through entity. Payments of more than $1,000 or 50% of the prior year PTE tax are due by June 15 of the current tax year, with the remaining due on March 15 of the following year. This is effective for tax years beginning January 1, 2021 or later and before January 1, 2026.

California City Business Taxes of Note

The following are business taxes that business owners should be aware of for San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Middle Class Tax Refund Tax Treatment

In late 2022 and early 2023, California issued qualified taxpayers a total of $9.2 billion in refunds of tax overpayments, called the Middle Class Tax Refund. The State of California noted these payments are not liable for state taxes previously. In February, the IRS determined that it will not challenge the tax treatment of these payments on 2022 tax filings, citing their general welfare and disaster relief exception.

Extension of Tax Filing and Payment Due Dates

Due to historically high rain, snow, and flooding in much of California, the IRS is offering disaster relief assistance in the form of due date extensions on required tax filings and payments. The new deadline for tax payments due from January through October is October 16, 2023. This includes:

For more information on the counties qualified for tax relief and what payments have been extended, please visit the IRS press release or call our team.

If you’re thinking about setting up a retirement plan for yourself and your employees, but you’re worried about the financial commitment and administrative burdens involved, there are a couple of options to consider. Let’s take a look at a “simplified employee pension” (SEP) or a “savings incentive match plan for employees” (SIMPLE).

SEPs are intended as an attractive alternative to “qualified” retirement plans, particularly for small businesses. The features that are appealing include the relative ease of administration and the discretion that you, as the employer, are permitted in deciding whether or not to make annual contributions.

SEP Involves Easy Setup

If you don’t already have a qualified retirement plan, you can set up a SEP simply by using the IRS model SEP, Form 5305-SEP. By adopting and implementing this model SEP, which doesn’t have to be filed with the IRS, you’ll have satisfied the SEP requirements. This means that as the employer, you’ll get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees won’t be taxed when the contributions are made but will be taxed later when distributions are made, usually at retirement. Depending on your needs, an individually-designed SEP — instead of the model SEP — may be appropriate for you.

When you set up a SEP for yourself and your employees, you’ll make deductible contributions to each employee’s IRA, called a SEP-IRA, which must be IRS-approved. The maximum amount of deductible contributions that you can make to an employee’s SEP-IRA, and that he or she can exclude from income, is the lesser of: 25% of compensation and $66,000 for 2023. The deduction for your contributions to employees’ SEP-IRAs isn’t limited by the deduction ceiling applicable to an individual’s own contribution to a regular IRA. Your employees control their individual IRAs and IRA investments, the earnings on which are tax-free.

There are other requirements you’ll have to meet to be eligible to set up a SEP. Essentially, all regular employees must elect to participate in the program, and contributions can’t discriminate in favor of the highly compensated employees. But these requirements are minor compared to the bookkeeping and other administrative burdens connected with traditional qualified pension and profit-sharing plans.

The detailed records that traditional plans must maintain to comply with the complex nondiscrimination regulations aren’t required for SEPs. And employers aren’t required to file annual reports with IRS, which, for a pension plan, could require the services of an actuary. The required recordkeeping can be done by a trustee of the SEP-IRAs — usually a bank or mutual fund.

SIMPLE Plans

Another option for a business with 100 or fewer employees is a “savings incentive match plan for employees” (SIMPLE). Under these plans, a “SIMPLE IRA” is established for each eligible employee, with the employer making matching contributions based on contributions elected by participating employees under a qualified salary reduction arrangement. The SIMPLE plan is also subject to much less stringent requirements than traditional qualified retirement plans. Or, an employer can adopt a “simple” 401(k) plan, with similar features to a SIMPLE plan, and automatic passage of the otherwise complex nondiscrimination test for 401(k) plans.

For 2023, SIMPLE deferrals are up to $15,500 plus an additional $3,500 catch-up contributions for employees ages 50 and older.

Contact us for more information or to discuss any other aspect of your retirement planning.

© 2023

If you’re starting a business with some partners and wondering what type of entity to form, an S corporation may be the most suitable form of business for your new venture. Here are some of the reasons why.

A big benefit of an S corporation over a partnership is that as S corporation shareholders, you won’t be personally liable for corporate debts. In order to receive this protection, it’s important that:

Dealing with Losses

If you expect that the business will incur losses in its early years, an S corporation is preferable to a C corporation from a tax standpoint. Shareholders in a C corporation generally get no tax benefit from such losses. In contrast, as S corporation shareholders, each of you can deduct your percentage share of losses on your personal tax return to the extent of your basis in the stock and in any loans you made to the entity. Losses that can’t be deducted because they exceed your basis are carried forward and can be deducted by you in the future when there’s sufficient basis.

Once the S corporation begins to earn profits, the income will be taxed directly to you whether or not it’s distributed. It will be reported on your individual tax return and be aggregated with income from other sources. Your share of the S corporation’s income won’t be subject to self-employment tax, but your wages will be subject to Social Security taxes. To the extent the income is passed through to you as qualified business income (QBI), you’ll be eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations.

Note: Unless Congress acts to extend it, the QBI deduction is scheduled to expire after 2025.

If you’re planning to provide fringe benefits such as health and life insurance, you should be aware that the costs of providing such benefits to a more than 2% shareholder are deductible by the entity but are taxable to the recipient.

Protecting S Status

Also, be aware that the S corporation could inadvertently lose its S status if you or your partners transfer stock to an ineligible shareholder, such as another corporation, a partnership, or a nonresident alien. If the S election was terminated, the corporation would become a taxable entity. You would not be able to deduct any losses, and earnings could be subject to double taxation — once at the corporate level and again when distributed to you. In order to protect against this risk, it’s a good idea for each shareholder to sign an agreement promising not to make any transfers that would jeopardize the S election.

Before finalizing your choice of entity, consult with us. We can answer any questions you have and assist in launching your new venture.

© 2023

The new lease accounting methods have been an important topic for businesses over the last few years. Determining if an enforceable lease exists is an integral part of Topic 842 that affects how and what gets reported under these lease accounting methods. Compliance for certain leases is being simplified for organizations that fall under common control arrangements, such as parent organizations and subsidiaries. The Financial Accounting Standards Board voted to enact the following changes when the update to Topic 842 is released.

Common Control for Nonprofits and Private Entities

The FASB has voted to adopt the proposed November update as written for nonprofit organizations and private entities under common control. This update would simplify the compliance approach for these organizations by allowing them to use written terms and conditions to help determine if an enforceable lease arrangement is in place. This workaround is expected to be welcomed by smaller organizations, as the complex analysis for lease agreements can be costly and take time.

The FASB allows this method under their ‘practical expedient’ policy. However, please note practical expedience cannot be used in the absence of written terms and conditions.

Improvements While Under Lease

For properties under a common control lease, changes to the current standards are being made to account for improvements made to the property. Under the new rule, the cost of improvements should amortize over the ‘useful life’ of the improvements. This should be scheduled out regardless of lease terms if the common control lease group uses the property throughout the lease. Previously, improvements could only be amortized over the terms of the lease. This change applies to public, private, and nonprofit organizations.

Moving forward, you may need to change how your organization handles leases in common control groups. Do not act on these changes until the FASB formally releases the update, which is expected by the end of March 2023.

Lease accounting standards can be complex and confusing. For guidance on setting up your firm’s lease accounting system or auditing the current system in place, please get in touch with our knowledgeable team members today.

In our rapidly evolving information era, new rules and regulations pressure businesses to consolidate their financial reporting process. But depending on your financial system, running these reports can require extensive manual work, exposing your reporting to user errors. While many businesses have turned to enterprise resource planning (ERP) automation, a recent article claims less than half of companies’ automation initiatives are currently meeting their objectives. Combine these factors with a lack of workflow coordination, data inconsistencies, and feeble post-close review, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Organizations and CFOs often encounter problems with data quality management, missing skills and resources, support of the executive suite, and a lack of clear processes. If your company is spending more and more time on the financial close process, it is probably time to upgrade to a more agile approach. Start with these steps to improve your financial close process and streamline reporting.

1. Understand the systems currently in place.

Is your organization fully utilizing the features available in your current financial system? Evaluate software utilization, potential overlap, areas of overcomplexity, and poor standardization processes. A thorough review of your current system’s capabilities will help you understand what’s possible and introduce efficiencies to your organization.

2. Look for automation gaps.

The primary purpose of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or financial management system is to provide a central database of all system applications. Robust database systems are key to modern finance departments but aren’t always ready to scale. Companies can fill the gaps in their current system with add-on point solutions or robotic process automation (RPA) but should be aware of cost, maintenance, and security implications. Plugging the gap will likely require a more strategic approach. Our professionals can help you orchestrate and implement process transformation that works with your systems and your business.

3. Control the data.

Poor-quality data can act as a stopgap. Make the time to understand the purpose of the data used in the business, where the numbers come from, and their relationships with other metrics. To reduce these speed bumps along the way:

4. Prepare for change.

Change is well and good, but progress will stall if you don’t have the support of the executive team or the people who will be implementing the change. Make certain the proposed changes align with the organization’s strategy. Then, align the people to the processes and each other. Organizations need to be able to pivot quickly. With buy-in from the correct individuals, you can shift your organization toward the future when regulatory updates arise or gaps are exposed.

Use these steps to build a technological infrastructure that allows for change and drives data efficiency. If you need recommendations on streamlining your financial reporting processes, contact our team of advisors today!

Under tax law, businesses can generally deduct advertising and marketing expenses that help keep existing customers and bring in new ones. This valuable tax deduction can help businesses cut their taxes.

However, in order to be deductible, advertising and marketing expenses must be “ordinary and necessary.” As one taxpayer recently learned in U.S. Tax Court, not all expenses are eligible. An ordinary expense is one that’s common and accepted in the industry. And a necessary expense is one that’s helpful and appropriate for the business.

According to the IRS, here are some advertising expenses that are usually deductible:

Facts of the Recent Case

An attorney deducted his car-racing expenses and claimed they were advertising for his personal injury law practice. He contended that his racing expenses, totaling over $303,000 for six tax years, were deductible as advertising because the car he raced was sponsored by his law firm.

The IRS denied the deductions and argued that the attorney’s car racing wasn’t an ordinary and necessary expense paid or incurred while carrying on his business of practicing law. The Tax Court agreed with the IRS.

When making an ordinary and necessary determination for an expense, most courts look to the taxpayer’s primary motive for incurring the expense and whether there’s a “proximate” relationship between the expense and the taxpayer’s occupation. In this case, the taxpayer’s car-racing expenses were neither necessary nor common for a law practice, so there was no “proximate” relationship between the expense and the taxpayer’s occupation. And, while the taxpayer said his primary motive for incurring the expense was to advertise his law business, he never raced in the state where his primary law practice was located, and he never actually got any legal business from his car-racing activity.

The court noted that the car “sat in his garage” after he returned to the area where his law practice was located. The court added that even if the taxpayer raced in that area, “we would not find his expenses to be legitimate advertising expenses. His name and a decal for his law firm appeared in relatively small print” on his car.

This form of “signage,” the court stated, “is at the opposite end of the spectrum from (say) a billboard or a newspaper ad. Indeed, every driver’s name typically appeared on his or her racing car.” (TC Memo 2023-18)

Keep Meticulous Records

There are no deductions allowed for personal expenses or hobbies. But as explained above, you can deduct ordinary and necessary advertising and marketing expenses in a bona fide business. The key to protecting your deductions is to keep meticulous records to substantiate them. Contact us with questions about your situation.

© 2023

With a recession on the horizon – or already here, depending on who you talk to – employees are feeling the sting of inflation, and employers are feeling the financial pinch from decreased consumer buying power and increased caution in spending. Traditionally, layoffs are one of the first options to save money, which harms productivity and employee morale in the long run. In today’s economic climate and tight labor market, CFOs have much to consider and a unique opportunity.

Americans are awful at using vacation hours. Even with lucrative time off policies, paid time off (PTO) hours can sit in a bank waiting to be used or cashed in when an employee leaves the company. The standard has been a tiered benefits package based on years of service with the organization. While the quality depends on the package, what’s true across the board is not every person will use every benefit. According to recent studies, women and persons of color are far less likely to use all their PTO. Furthermore, female team members are more likely to value an emergency fund than their male counterparts. Translation: your company is probably paying for benefits your employees may not use or value.

More and more companies are using convertible benefits to create flexibility and increase utilization, maximizing the employees’ value and balancing company’s cost.

Convertible benefits increase employee satisfaction. Approximately 80% of employees are not actively engaged, costing the company funds in productivity waste and increasing the likelihood of turnover.

Convertible benefits create an inclusive and attractive work culture. When recruiting new team members, studies show a diverse workforce is a key factor for many job seekers. A flexible benefits package can help attract talent from a range of backgrounds.

A convertible benefit program does not have to be complex. Employees should be able to use their PTO or trade it in for cash contributed to a retirement account or money to create an emergency fund. Younger team members may want to convert unused PTO into payments toward their student loans. The goal is to give the team options, listen to their feedback, and adjust where you can. For assistance reviewing your human capital costs and ideas on avoiding layoffs and salary reductions, please get in touch with our trusted team of professionals.

Merger and acquisition activity dropped dramatically last year due to rising interest rates and a slowing economy. The total value of M&A transactions in North America in 2022 was down 41.4% from 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

But some analysts expect 2023 to see increased M&A activity in certain industries. If you’re considering buying or selling a business, it’s important to understand the tax implications.

Two Approaches

Under current tax law, a transaction can basically be structured in two ways:

1. Stock (or ownership interest). A buyer can directly purchase a seller’s ownership interest if the target business is operated as a C or S corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes.

The current 21% corporate federal income tax rate makes buying the stock of a C corporation somewhat more attractive. That’s because the corporation will pay less tax and generate more after-tax income. Plus, any built-in gains from appreciated corporate assets will be taxed at a lower rate when they’re eventually sold.

The current individual federal tax rates have also made ownership interests in S corporations, partnerships, and LLCs more attractive. Reason: The passed-through income from these entities also is taxed at lower rates on a buyer’s personal tax return. However, individual rate cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025.

2. Assets. A buyer can also purchase the assets of a business. This may happen if a buyer only wants specific assets or product lines. And it’s the only option if the target business is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes.
What buyers want

For several reasons, buyers usually prefer to buy assets rather than ownership interests. In general, a buyer’s primary goal is to generate enough cash flow from an acquired business to pay any acquisition debt and provide an acceptable return on the investment. Therefore, buyers are concerned about limiting exposure to undisclosed and unknown liabilities and minimizing taxes after a transaction closes.

A buyer can step up (or increase) the tax basis of purchased assets to reflect the purchase price. Stepped-up basis lowers taxable gains when certain assets, such as receivables and inventory, are sold or converted into cash. It also increases depreciation and amortization deductions for qualifying assets.

What Sellers Want

In general, sellers prefer stock sales for tax and nontax reasons. One of their objectives is to minimize the tax bill from a sale. That can usually be achieved by selling their ownership interests in a business (corporate stock, or partnership or LLC interests) as opposed to selling assets.

With a sale of stock or other ownership interest, liabilities generally transfer to the buyer, and any gain on sale is generally treated as lower-taxed long-term capital gain (assuming the ownership interest has been held for more than one year).

Seek Advice Before a Transaction

Be aware that other issues, such as employee benefits, can also cause tax issues in M&A transactions. Buying or selling a business may be the largest transaction you’ll ever make, so it’s important to seek professional assistance before finalizing a deal. After a transaction is complete, it may be too late to get the best tax results. Contact us about how to proceed.
© 2023

A business owner’s plate is quite full, if not overflowing, from the day-to-day operations to the background necessities like marketing and financial activities. The reality is it’s difficult to do everything and be everyone for your business. Working with an outsourced Chief Financial Officer, or vCFO, could be the right move for your business in 2023, and here is why.

Financial Management is Time-Consuming

Time management is crucial to the success of a business. Trying to handle financial risk assessments, financial reporting, record keeping, and even financial planning often diverts time away from other critical tasks. A vCFO will use their expertise and resources to complete financial tasks quickly and accurately, allowing you to redirect hours to other business functions.

There are Benefits to Better Qualifications and Experience

As a business owner, you know your product or service and all the nuances inside and out. Customers pay you for your product, service, and expertise. When you outsource a CFO, you will gain access to decision support, new ideas, and an experienced perspective.

A vCFO can help with decision-making, financial ratio, cost-benefit, and pricing analyses. Or they can provide an outside perspective on future business moves you’re considering and ask the hard questions you may be afraid to ask.

Full-Time CFOs May Not be an Option

Hiring a full-time CFO is either cost prohibitive or unrealistic if there isn’t 40 hours’ worth of work. Outsourcing allows businesses to pay only for the hours and tasks they need allowing the business to save money.

The Business Needs Flexibility

Getting bogged down in the minute details of running a business can cause business owners to miss the bigger picture and make it harder to shift when the winds of change come blowing in. Outsourcing financial tasks to an expert frees up time for the business owner to step back and see what opportunities and roadblocks may lie ahead. They can also be a sounding board and provide insight into the different directions you are considering.

Finances Aren’t Where You are Hoping They Would Be

Maybe your business finances need to be straightened out, you need help making heads or tails of the numbers, or your business isn’t bringing in the revenue you’d expect even with new customers and increasing sales. Outsourced CFOs bring a wealth of experience to the table that helps business owners by providing expert guidance through these scenarios. And, if you need to raise capital or investigate business loans, the outsourced CFO can also assist with those tasks.

It’s Time to Move On

There will come a time when the right move is moving on from the business. This could mean retirement or finding new opportunities elsewhere. Experienced CFOs can guide you through the various options and help you select the options that align best with your goals.

Are you ready to discuss what an outsourced CFO can do for your business? Reach out to our knowledgeable professionals to set up a time to discuss your goals and how you plan to get there.

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2023. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. If you have questions about filing requirements, contact us. We can ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

January 17 (The usual deadline of January 15 is on a Sunday and January 16 is a federal holiday)

January 31

February 15

Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2022. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient. This due date applies only to the following types of payments:

February 28

March 15

© 2022

How much can you and your employees contribute to your 401(k)s next year — or other retirement plans? In Notice 2022-55, the IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments that apply to the dollar limitations for pensions, as well as other qualified retirement plans for 2023. The amounts increased more than they have in recent years due to inflation.

401(k) Plans

The 2023 contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) plans will increase to $22,500 (up from $20,500 in 2022). This contribution amount also applies to 403(b) plans, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k) plans and the other plans mentioned above will increase to $7,500 (up from $6,500 in 2022). Therefore, participants in 401(k) plans (and the others listed above) who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000 in 2023.

SEP Plans and Defined Contribution Plans

The limitation for defined contribution plans, including a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan, will increase from $61,000 to $66,000. To participate in a SEP, an eligible employee must receive at least a certain amount of compensation for the year. That amount will increase in 2023 to $750 (from $650 for 2022).

SIMPLE Plans

Deferrals to a SIMPLE plan will increase to $15,500 in 2023 (up from $14,000 in 2022). The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE plans will increase to $3,500 in 2023, up from $3,000.

Other Plan Limits

The IRS also announced that in 2023:

IRA Contributions

The 2023 limit on annual contributions to an individual IRA will increase to $6,500 (up from $6,000 for 2022). The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and older isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and will remain $1,000.

Plan Ahead

Current high inflation rates will make it easier for you and your employees to save much more in your retirement plans in 2023. The contribution amounts will be a great deal higher next year than they’ve been in recent years. Contact us if you have questions about your tax-advantaged retirement plan or if you want to explore other retirement plan options.

© 2022

Companies that wish to reduce their tax bills or increase their refunds shouldn’t overlook the fuel tax credit. It’s available for federal tax paid on fuel used for nontaxable purposes.

When Does the Federal Fuel Tax Apply?

The federal fuel tax, which is used to fund highway and road maintenance programs, is collected from buyers of gasoline, undyed diesel fuel, and undyed kerosene. (Dyed fuels, which are limited to off-road use, are exempt from the tax.)

But purchasers of taxable fuel may use it for nontaxable purposes. For example, construction businesses often use gasoline, undyed diesel fuel or undyed kerosene to run off-road vehicles and construction equipment, such as front loaders, bulldozers, cranes, power saws, air compressors, generators and heaters.

As of this writing, a federal fuel tax holiday has been proposed. But even if it’s signed into law (check with your tax advisor for the latest information), businesses can benefit from the fuel tax credit for months the holiday isn’t in effect.

How Much Can You Save?

Currently, the federal tax on gasoline is $0.184 per gallon, and the federal tax on diesel fuel and kerosene is $0.244 per gallon. Calculating the fuel tax credit is simply a matter of multiplying the number of gallons used for nontaxable purposes during the year by the applicable rate.

So, for instance, a company that uses 7,500 gallons of gasoline and 15,000 gallons of undyed diesel fuel to operate off-road vehicles and equipment is entitled to a $5,040 credit (7,500 x $0.184) + (15,000 x $0.244).

This may not seem like a large number, but it can add up over the years. And remember, a tax credit reduces your tax liability dollar for dollar. That’s much more valuable than a deduction, which reduces only your taxable income.

Keep in mind, though, that fuel tax credits are includable in your company’s taxable income. That’s because the full amount of the fuel purchases was previously deducted as business expenses, and you can’t claim a deduction and a credit on the same expense.

How Do You Claim It?

You can claim the credit by filing Form 4136, “Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels,” with your tax return. If you don’t want to wait until the end of the year to recoup fuel taxes, you can file Form 8849, “Claim for Refund of Excise Taxes,” to obtain periodic refunds.

Alternatively, if your business files Form 720, “Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return,” you can claim fuel tax credits against your excise tax liability.

Why Pay if You Don’t Have To?

No one likes to pay taxes they don’t owe, but if you forgo fuel tax credits, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Given the minimal burden involved in claiming these credits — it’s just a matter of tracking your nontaxable fuel uses and filing a form — there’s really no reason not to do so.

©2022

Many companies are eligible for tax write-offs for certain equipment purchases and building improvements. These write-offs can do wonders for a business’s cash flow, but whether to claim them isn’t always an easy decision. In some cases, there are advantages to following the regular depreciation rules. So it’s critical to look at the big picture and develop a strategy that aligns with your company’s overall tax-planning objectives.

Background

Taxpayers can elect to claim 100% bonus depreciation or Section 179 expensing to deduct the full cost of eligible property up front in the year it’s placed in service. Alternatively, they may spread depreciation deductions over several years or decades, depending on how the tax code classifies the property.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), 100% bonus depreciation is available for property placed in service through 2022. Without further legislation, bonus depreciation will be phased down to 80% for property placed in service in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026; then, after 2026, bonus depreciation will no longer be available. (For certain property with longer production periods, these reductions are delayed by one year. For example, 80% bonus depreciation will apply to long-production-period property placed in service in 2024.)

In March 2020, a technical correction made by the CARES Act expanded the availability of bonus depreciation. Under the correction, qualified improvement property (QIP), which includes many interior improvements to commercial buildings, is eligible for 100% bonus depreciation not only following the phaseout schedule through 2026 but also retroactively to 2018. So, taxpayers that placed QIP in service in 2018 and 2019 may have an opportunity to claim bonus depreciation by amending their returns for those years. If bonus depreciation isn’t claimed, QIP is generally depreciable on a straight-line basis over 15 years.

Sec. 179 also allows taxpayers to fully deduct the cost of eligible property, but the maximum deduction in a given year is $1 million (adjusted for inflation to $1.08 million for 2022), and the deduction is gradually phased out once a taxpayer’s qualifying expenditures exceed $2.5 million (adjusted for inflation to $2.7 million for 2022).

Examples

While 100% first-year bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 expensing can significantly lower your company’s taxable income, it’s not always a smart move. Here are three examples of situations where it may be preferable to forgo bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 expensing:

You’re planning to sell QIP. If you’ve invested heavily in building improvements that are eligible for bonus depreciation as QIP and you plan to sell the building in the near future, you may be stepping into a tax trap by claiming the QIP write-off. That’s because your gain on the sale — up to the amount of bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions you’ve claimed — will be treated as “recaptured” depreciation that’s taxable at ordinary-income tax rates as high as 37%. On the other hand, if you deduct the cost of QIP under regular depreciation rules (generally, over 15 years), any long-term gain attributable to those deductions will be taxable at a top rate of 25% upon the building’s sale.

You’re eligible for the Sec. 199A “pass-through” deduction. This deduction allows eligible business owners to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income (QBI) from certain pass-through entities, such as partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations, as well as sole proprietorships. The deduction, which is available through 2025 under the TCJA, can’t exceed 20% of an owner’s taxable income, excluding net capital gains. (Several other restrictions apply.)

Claiming bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions reduces your QBI, which may deprive you of an opportunity to maximize the 199A deduction. And since the 199A deduction is scheduled to expire in 2025, it makes sense to take advantage of it while you can.

Your depreciation deductions may be more valuable in the future. The value of a deduction is based on its ability to reduce your tax bill. If you think your tax rate will go up in the coming years, either because you believe Congress will increase rates or you expect to be in a higher bracket, depreciation write-offs may be worth more in future years than they are now.

Timing is Everything

Keep in mind that forgoing bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions only affects the timing of those deductions. You’ll still have an opportunity to write off the full cost of eligible assets; it will just be over a longer time period. Your tax advisor can analyze how these write-offs interact with other tax benefits and help you determine the optimal strategy for your situation.

©2022

No one needs to remind business owners that the cost of employee health care benefits keeps going up. One way to provide some of these benefits is through an employer-sponsored Health Savings Account (HSA). For eligible individuals, an HSA offers a tax-advantaged way to set aside funds (or have their employers do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the key tax benefits:

Eligibility and 2023 Contribution Limits

To be eligible for an HSA, an individual must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2023, a “high deductible health plan” will be one with an annual deductible of at least $1,500 for self-only coverage or at least $3,000 for family coverage. (These amounts in 2022 were $1,400 and $2,800, respectively.) For self-only coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $3,850 (up from $3,650 in 2022). For family coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $7,750 (up from $7,300 in 2022). Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits for 2023 will not be able to exceed $7,500 for self-only coverage or $15,000 for family coverage (up from $7,050 and $14,100, respectively, in 2022).

An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse, as well) who has reached age 55 before the close of the tax year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2023 of up to $1,000 (unchanged from the 2022 amount).

Employer Contributions

If an employer contributes to the HSA of an eligible individual, the employer’s contribution is treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an accident or health plan. It’s also excludable from an employee’s gross income up to the deduction limitation. Funds can be built up for years because there’s no “use-it-or-lose-it” provision. An employer that decides to make contributions on its employees’ behalf must generally make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees for that calendar year. If the employer doesn’t make comparable contributions, the employer is subject to a 35% tax on the aggregate amount contributed by the employer to HSAs for that period.

Making Withdrawals

HSA withdrawals (or distributions) can be made to pay for qualified medical expenses, which generally means expenses that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. Among these expenses are doctors’ visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care, and premiums for long-term care insurance.

If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% tax will apply to the withdrawal unless it’s made after reaching age 65 or in the event of death or disability.

HSAs offer a flexible option for providing health care coverage, and they may be an attractive benefit for your business. But the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss offering HSAs to your employees.

© 2022

If you need to hire, be aware of a valuable tax credit for employers hiring individuals from one or more targeted groups. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is generally worth $2,400 for each eligible employee but can be worth more — in some cases, much more.

Targeted Groups

Generally, an employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group. These groups are:

Employer Eligibility and Requirements

Employers of all sizes are eligible to claim the WOTC. This includes both taxable and certain tax-exempt employers located in the United States and in some U.S. territories. Taxable employers can claim the WOTC against income taxes. However, eligible tax-exempt employers can claim the WOTC only against payroll taxes and only for wages paid to members of the qualified veteran targeted group.

Many additional conditions must be fulfilled before employers can qualify for the credit. Each employee must have completed a minimum of 120 hours of service for the employer. Also, the credit isn’t available for employees who are related to the employer or who previously worked for the employer.

Credit Amounts

WOTC amounts differ for specific employees. The maximum credit available for the first year’s wages generally is $2,400 for each employee, or $4,000 for a recipient of long-term family assistance. In addition, for those receiving long-term family assistance, there’s a 50% credit for up to $10,000 of second-year wages. The maximum credit available over two years for these employees is $9,000 ($4,000 for Year 1 and $5,000 for Year 2).

For some veterans, the maximum WOTC is higher: $4,800 for certain disabled veterans, $5,600 for certain unemployed veterans, and $9,600 for certain veterans who are both disabled and unemployed.

For summer youth employees, the wages must be paid for services performed during any 90-day period between May 1 and September 15. The maximum WOTC credit available for summer youth is $1,200 per employee.

Worth Pursuing

Additional rules and requirements apply. For example, you must obtain certification that an employee is a target group member from the appropriate State Workforce Agency before you can claim the credit. The certification generally must be requested within 28 days after the employee begins work. And in limited circumstances, the rules may prohibit the credit or require an allocation of it.

Nevertheless, for most employers that hire from targeted groups, the credit can be valuable. Contact your tax advisor with questions or for more information about your situation.

© 2022

Throughout the year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will designate incidents that adversely affect residents in the affected areas as disasters. This FEMA designation puts relief efforts in motion, both short and long-term.

While immediate needs like food, water, and shelter are at the top of the list, long-term efforts, like relief options through the IRS, aim to help those affected get back on their feet.

What Does the IRS Do in the Event of a Disaster?

In the past, the Senate was required to vote every time the IRS wanted to grant disaster relief provisions to FEMA-designated disaster areas. Now, the IRS can give disaster relief by extending deadlines for “certain time-sensitive acts.” This includes filing returns and paying taxes during the disaster period. For example, affected taxpayers usually receive a tax refund more quickly by “claiming losses related to the disaster on the tax return for the previous year.”

Preparing for a Disaster

While in some areas of the country, disaster preparedness feels more like a what-if scenario, other parts of the country are all-too-familiar with preparing for floods, wildfires, and tornados. The IRS recommends:

Recovering After a Disaster

Suppose you or your business have gone through a natural disaster, and you cannot access your original tax documents. In that case, the IRS recommends the following resources for obtaining important financial information when you are ready:

Current Disaster Areas

The IRS keeps a list of current and past disaster relief offered on its website. Some of the more recent disaster-related tax relief programs include:

We recommend talking with your tax advisor and visiting the IRS Disaster Relief Website for a comprehensive list.

Even though the overall IRS audit rate is currently low historically, it’s expected to increase as a result of provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law in August. So it’s more important than ever for taxpayers to follow the rules to minimize their chances of being subject to an audit. How can you reduce your audit chances? Watch for these 10 red flags that can trigger IRS scrutiny:

Of course, this isn’t the end of the list. There are many other potential audit triggers, depending on a taxpayer’s particular situation. Also, keep in mind that some audits are done on a random basis. So even if you have no common triggers on your return, you still could be subject to an audit (though the chances are lower).

With proper tax reporting and professional help, you can reduce the likelihood of triggering an audit. And if you still end up being subject to one, proper documentation can help you withstand it with little or no negative consequences.

©2022

Businesses can provide benefits to employees that don’t cost them much or anything at all. However, in some cases, employees may have to pay tax on the value of these benefits.

Here are examples of two types of benefits which employees generally can exclude from income:

However, many fringe benefits are taxable, meaning they’re included in the employees’ wages and reported on Form W-2. Unless an exception applies, these benefits are subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security (unless the employee has already reached the year’s wage base limit) and Medicare.

Court Case Provides Lessons

The line between taxable and nontaxable fringe benefits may not be clear. As illustrated in one recent case, some taxpayers get into trouble if they cross too far over the line.

A retired airline pilot received free stand-by airline tickets from his former employer for himself, his spouse, his daughter, and two other adult relatives. The value of the tickets provided to the adult relatives was valued $5,478. The airline reported this amount as income paid to the retired pilot on Form 1099-MISC, which it filed with the IRS. The taxpayer and his spouse filed a joint tax return for the year in question but didn’t include the value of the free tickets in gross income.

The IRS determined that the couple was required to include the value of the airline tickets provided to their adult relatives in their gross income. The retired pilot argued the value of the tickets should be excluded as a de minimis fringe.

The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the IRS that the taxpayers were required to include in gross income the value of airline tickets provided to their adult relatives. The value, the court stated, didn’t qualify for exclusion as a no-additional-cost service because the adult relatives weren’t the taxpayers’ dependent children. In addition, the value wasn’t excludable under the tax code as a de minimis fringe benefit “because the tickets had a value high enough that accounting for their provision was not unreasonable or administratively impracticable.” (TC Memo 2022-36)

You may be able to exclude from wages the value of certain fringe benefits that your business provides to employees. But the requirements are strict. If you have questions about the tax implications of fringe benefits, contact us.

© 2022

You and your small business are likely to incur a variety of local transportation costs each year. There are various tax implications for these expenses.

First, what is “local transportation?” It refers to travel in which you aren’t away from your tax home (the city or general area in which your main place of business is located) long enough to require sleep or rest. Different rules apply if you’re away from your tax home for significantly more than an ordinary workday and you need sleep or rest in order to do your work.

Costs of Traveling to Your Work Location

The most important feature of the local transportation rules is that your commuting costs aren’t deductible. In other words, the fare you pay or the miles you drive simply to get to work and home again are personal and not business miles. Therefore, no deduction is available. This is the case even if you work during the commute (for example, via a cell phone, or by performing business-related tasks while on the subway).

An exception applies for commuting to a temporary work location that’s outside of the metropolitan area in which you live and normally work. “Temporary,” for this purpose, means a location where your work is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for no more than a year.

Costs of Traveling From Work Location to Other Sites

On the other hand, once you get to the work location, the cost of any local trips you take for business purposes is a deductible business expense. So, for example, the cost of travel from your office to visit a customer or pick up supplies is deductible. Similarly, if you have two business locations, the costs of traveling between them is deductible.

Recordkeeping

If your deductible trip is by taxi or public transportation, save a receipt if possible or make a notation of the expense in a logbook. Record the date, amount spent, destination, and business purpose. If you use your own car, note miles driven instead of the amount spent. Note also any tolls paid or parking fees and keep receipts.

You’ll need to allocate your automobile expenses between business and personal use based on miles driven during the year. Proper recordkeeping is crucial in the event the IRS challenges you.

Your deduction can be computed using:

Employees Versus Self-Employed

From 2018 – 2025, employees, may not deduct unreimbursed local transportation costs. That’s because “miscellaneous itemized deductions” — a category that includes employee business expenses — are suspended (not allowed) for 2018 through 2025. However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct the expenses discussed in this article. But beginning with 2026, business expenses (including unreimbursed employee auto expenses) of employees are scheduled to be deductible again, as long as the employee’s total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income.

Contact us with any questions or to discuss the matter further.

© 2022

IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations, and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited, but overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis, you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, canceled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.

Audit Targets

It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies, so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

If You Receive a Letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited emails or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If you’re audited, our firm can help you:

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.

© 2022