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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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