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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, government officials are seeing a large increase in the number of new businesses being launched. From June 2020 through June 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that business applications are up 18.6%. The Bureau measures this by the number of businesses applying for an Employer Identification Number.

Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many of the expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your federal tax bill.

How to treat expenses for tax purposes

If you’re starting or planning to launch a new business, keep these three rules in mind:

  1. Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.
  2. Under the tax code, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs in the year the business begins. As you know, $5,000 doesn’t go very far these days! And the $5,000 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount by which your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized over 180 months on a straight-line basis.
  3. No deductions or amortization deductions are allowed until the year when “active conduct” of your new business begins. Generally, that means the year when the business has all the pieces in place to start earning revenue. To determine if a taxpayer meets this test, the IRS and courts generally ask questions such as: Did the taxpayer undertake the activity intending to earn a profit? Was the taxpayer regularly and actively involved? Did the activity actually begin?

Eligible expenses

In general, start-up expenses are those you make to:

To qualify for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.

To be eligible as an “organization expense,” an expense must be related to establishing a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.

Plan now

If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the election described above. Recordkeeping is critical. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business.

© 2021

Are you eligible to take the deduction for qualified business income (QBI)? Here are 10 facts about this valuable tax break, referred to as the pass-through deduction, QBI deduction or Section 199A deduction.

  1. It’s available to owners of sole proprietorships, single member limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and S corporations. It may also be claimed by trusts and estates.
  2. The deduction is intended to reduce the tax rate on QBI to a rate that’s closer to the corporate tax rate.
  3. It’s taken “below the line.” That means it reduces your taxable income but not your adjusted gross income. But it’s available regardless of whether you itemize deductions or take the standard deduction.
  4. The deduction has two components: 20% of QBI from a domestic business operated as a sole proprietorship or through a partnership, S corporation, trust or estate; and 20% of the taxpayer’s combined qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income.
  5. QBI is the net amount of a taxpayer’s qualified items of income, gain, deduction and loss relating to any qualified trade or business. Items of income, gain, deduction and loss are qualified to the extent they’re effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the U.S. and included in computing taxable income.
  6. QBI doesn’t necessarily equal the net profit or loss from a business, even if it’s a qualified trade or business. In addition to the profit or loss from Schedule C, QBI must be adjusted by certain other gain or deduction items related to the business.
  7. A qualified trade or business is any trade or business other than a specified service trade or business (SSTB). But an SSTB is treated as a qualified trade or business for taxpayers whose taxable income is under a threshold amount.
  8. SSTBs include health, law, accounting, actuarial science, certain performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, investment, trading, dealing securities and any trade or business where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of its employees or owners.
  9. There are limits based on W-2 wages. Inflation-adjusted threshold amounts also apply for purposes of applying the SSTB rules. For tax years beginning in 2021, the threshold amounts are $164,900 for singles and heads of household; $164,925 for married filing separately; and $329,800 for married filing jointly. The limits phase in over a $50,000 range ($100,000 for a joint return). This means that the deduction reduces ratably, so that by the time you reach the top of the range ($214,900 for singles and heads of household; $214,925 for married filing separately; and $429,800 for married filing jointly) the deduction is zero for income from an SSTB.
  10. For businesses conducted as a partnership or S corporation, the pass-through deduction is calculated at the partner or shareholder level.

As you can see, this substantial deduction is complex, especially if your taxable income exceeds the thresholds discussed above. Other rules apply. Contact us if you have questions about your situation.

© 2021

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) is a valuable tax break that was extended and modified by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), enacted in March of 2021. Here’s a rundown of the rules.

Background

Back in March of 2020, Congress originally enacted the ERTC in the CARES Act to encourage employers to hire and retain employees during the pandemic. At that time, the ERTC applied to wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. However, Congress later modified and extended the ERTC to apply to wages paid before July 1, 2021.

The ARPA again extended and modified the ERTC to apply to wages paid after June 30, 2021, and before January 1, 2022. Thus, an eligible employer can claim the refundable ERTC against “applicable employment taxes” equal to 70% of the qualified wages it pays to employees in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. Except as discussed below, qualified wages are generally limited to $10,000 per employee per 2021 calendar quarter. Thus, the maximum ERTC amount available is generally $7,000 per employee per calendar quarter or $28,000 per employee in 2021.

For purposes of the ERTC, a qualified employer is eligible if it experiences a significant decline in gross receipts or a full or partial suspension of business due to a government order. Employers with up to 500 full-time employees can claim the credit without regard to whether the employees for whom the credit is claimed actually perform services. But, except as explained below, employers with more than 500 full-time employees can only claim the ERTC with respect to employees that don’t perform services.

Employers who got a Payroll Protection Program loan in 2020 can still claim the ERTC. But the same wages can’t be used both for seeking loan forgiveness or satisfying conditions of other COVID relief programs (such as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program) in calculating the ERTC.

Modifications

Beginning in the third quarter of 2021, the following modifications apply to the ERTC:

Contact us if you have any questions related to your business claiming the ERTC.

© 2021

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the third quarter of 2021. 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.

Monday, August 2

Tuesday, August 10

Wednesday, September 15

© 2021

If you’re claiming deductions for business meals or auto expenses, expect the IRS to closely review them. In some cases, taxpayers have incomplete documentation or try to create records months (or years) later. In doing so, they fail to meet the strict substantiation requirements set forth under tax law. Tax auditors are adept at rooting out inconsistencies, omissions and errors in taxpayers’ records, as illustrated by one recent U.S. Tax Court case.

Facts of the case

In the case, the taxpayer ran a notary and paralegal business. She deducted business meals and vehicle expenses that she allegedly incurred in connection with her business.

The deductions were denied by the IRS and the court. Tax law “establishes higher substantiation requirements” for these and certain other expenses, the court noted. No deduction is generally allowed “unless the taxpayer substantiates the amount, time and place, business purpose, and business relationship to the taxpayer of the person receiving the benefit” for each expense with adequate records or sufficient evidence.

The taxpayer in this case didn’t provide adequate records or other sufficient evidence to prove the business purpose of her meal expenses. She gave vague testimony that she deducted expenses for meals where she “talked strategies” with people who “wanted her to do some work.” The court found this was insufficient to show the connection between the meals and her business.

When it came to the taxpayer’s vehicle expense deductions, she failed to offer credible evidence showing where she drove her vehicle, the purpose of each trip and her business relationship to the places visited. She also conceded that she used her car for both business and personal activities. (TC Memo 2021-50)

Best practices for business expenses

This case is an example of why it’s critical to maintain meticulous records to support business expenses for meals and vehicle deductions. Here’s a list of “DOs and DON’Ts” to help meet the strict IRS and tax law substantiation requirements for these items:

DO keep detailed, accurate records. For each expense, record the amount, the time and place, the business purpose, and the business relationship of any person to whom you provided a meal. If you have employees who you reimburse for meals and auto expenses, make sure they’re complying with all the rules.

 

DON’T reconstruct expense logs at year end or wait until you receive a notice from the IRS. Take a moment to record the details in a log or diary or on a receipt at the time of the event or soon after. Require employees to submit monthly expense reports.

 

DO respect the fine line between personal and business expenses. Be careful about combining business and pleasure. Your business checking account shouldn’t be used for personal expenses.

DON’T be surprised if the IRS asks you to prove your deductions. Meal and auto expenses are a magnet for attention. Be prepared for a challenge.

With organization and guidance from us, your tax records can stand up to scrutiny from the IRS. There may be ways to substantiate your deductions that you haven’t thought of, and there may be a way to estimate certain deductions (“the Cohan rule”), if your records are lost due to a fire, theft, flood or other disaster.

© 2021

Most industries came to a halt last year when the pandemic shut down businesses around the world. When manufacturers adjusted operations, taking necessary precautions to protect employees, it created a ripple effect of shortages in other areas,  including lumbar, tile, and other supplies used to build houses. Amidst all the uncertainty, it may seem easier to ignore performance metrics. In this climate, however, they are more important than ever before.  

Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) can help business owners keep their operations running smoothly. KPIs are essentially prioritized metrics that owners and managers need regular access to make decisions. When determining which KPIs are important to track, know that it varies by industry. Keep reading to discover some key metrics to help leaders in the construction industry understand your firm’s performance.  

Here are a few KPIs to consider:  

In addition to these more traditional KPIs, the following also impact profitability.  

While there are many other KPIs that construction firms can choose from, we find that these are often the top indicators of financial health and areas of opportunity. If you would like a second look at your KPIs or help establish some, give our team of professionals a call today. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses and entire industries to move their operations remotely in the interest of employee and customer safety, and this has caused these businesses to change the way they think about their operations. During this time, businesses have had to quickly adapt and implement new technology and processes in order to meet customer and employee demands that did not exist previously. These disruptions can be a source of headache or opportunity for businesses who choose to embrace the virtual business model.   

One process that is in the limelight more than ever is virtual outsourced accounting. Virtual outsourced accounting simply means working with an accounting firm that provides services virtually through cloud-based platforms. While many businesses have already made the move the cloud-based accounting platforms, some have resisted or have kept operations in-house due to the lack of incentive to change. However, the pandemic has created an incentive and highlights many of the reasons why a business would want to consider a virtual outsourced accounting option.  

The benefits of virtual outsourced accounting 

Safety  First and foremost is the safety of yourself and your employees. Virtual outsourced accounting allows you to conduct these financial operations remotely keeping you and your employees safe. When we return to our workplaces and safety is less of an issue, you continue to receive the other benefits of virtual accounting.  

Security – Virtual accounting allows for heavy encryption of your sensitive and confidential data and frequent backups of information across multiple locations, keeping your records safe in the event of any number of physical or digital threats. Physical filing cabinets or local servers are at increased risk of physical or digital hacking because they often do not have the heavy encryption necessary for protection, nor the multiple back-ups in case of a data breach or natural disaster  

Consistency – Businesses are likely in this for the long-haul with many industries not anticipating a return to workplaces for several more months. When you outsource your accounting to a firm with virtual capabilities, you never have to worry about lost time due to illness or employee turnover. Accounting firms have adapted their workplaces to virtual as well, providing as uninterrupted service as possible. 

Knowledge – Outsourcing your accounting provides you with greater access to a deeper bench of highly-skilled and knowledgeable accounting teams to help you bust through roadblocks or troubleshoot issues you are likely facing during the pandemic. When you’re encountering especially difficult and unforeseen challenges, a knowledgeable third-party adviser can help you stay on top of regulatory changes, financing opportunities, and provide guidance on forecasting and budgeting during unpredictable times. 

Flexibility – As the pandemic increasingly throws new challenges at businesses, having access to virtual outsourced accountants allows you the flexibility to bring in help where and when you need it. Outsourced accounting teams can serve as a fill-in for your in-house accounting staff where needed due to illness, long-term leave, furloughs/layoffs, or employee turnover. 

Remote Access – Working with a virtual accounting team that operates in the cloud allows you greater flexibility to perform tasks and access your numbers. Because data is updated in real time between you and your accountant, you can get a more accurate picture of your business’s financials – crucial during a turbulent time like the pandemic. 

Cost Savings – Outsourcing your accounting to a firm that conducts operations virtually provides you with significant cost savings including salary/compensation, employee benefits, and overhead that you would experience by hiring and in-house employee. Furthermore, you never have to worry about turnover costs such as recruiting, hiring, and training a new staff member.   

If you haven’t considered virtual accounting, now is the time. You do not have to face these pandemic challenges alone, and your financial processes shouldn’t be stifled due to inadequate operations that fail to consider the virtual world to which we’ve been forced to adapt. Contact us for more information on virtual accounting.   

With all of the curveballs 2020 has thrown at the nation, the economy, and businesses, there’s never been a better time to get an early jump on year-end planning for your business. While all the usual year-end tasks are still on the docket, you’ll want to consider implications related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), any disaster loan assistance you received, and changes made by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act 

We’ve put together a checklist of what you need to do now to prepare for a great year-end that includes annual tasks as well as 2020-specific tasks. Keep reading for assistance getting your financials organized, reviewing your tax strategy, and preparing for next year. 

Get organized 

1. Bring order to your books – Now is the time to collect, organize, and file all of your receipts for the year if you haven’t been staying on top of it. Get with your CPA to ensure everything is clean and in order before the end of the year to help avoid surprises come tax time.  

2. Examine your finances – This includes having your balance sheet, income statement, and cash-flow statements prepared and up to date. Reviewing this information allows you to see where your money went for the year so you can properly prepare for next year. 

3. Work with your CPA on your PPP loan forgiveness application – We are currently awaiting further guidance on the PPP’s impact to taxes, but it’s important to work with your CPA on your PPP loan forgiveness application. Knowing where your PPP loan lies can help determine how to spread out your cash flow for the remainder of the year. 

4. Organize all disaster loan assistance documentation – This includes your Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) documentation if you received an advance grantEIDL advances must be added to your taxable income (unless different guidance is released), but you’ll be able to deduct any expenses paid with this grant  

Review your tax strategy 

5. Review your taxes with your CPA – Do not put off your tax planning meeting with your CPA. Especially after the year you’ve had and any potential federal state aid your business received, your tax plan needs a review. Getting a jump on this earlywell before the new year, can help you plan for what’s to come on Tax Day. It’s even more imperative to plan early for any tax obligations you may have at tax time as it’s likely the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to create a volatile environment for many industries’ revenue projections.  

6. Execute on year-end tax strategy adjustments such as: 

7. Prepare your tax documents – Once you’ve met with your CPA, it’s time to line up all the info you need to prepare your final tax documents or have your CPA take care of it. Be sure not to put this off to the last minute as it will be a complicated year for everyone. 

8. Automate your tax function – Instead of spending valuable time and energy on manual tasks and repetitive processes this year, consider investing in data analytics and automation tools to optimize and streamline your in-house accounting and tax functions. There’s never been a better time to invest in technology that will help you become more efficient and accurate. 

Plan for the future  

9. Evaluate your goals – There’s no doubt that 2020 likely threw a wrench in many of your goals for the year. However, you should still review the goals you set last year and see if you’ve met or made progress on any of them. This will help with 2021 business planning. 

10. Set goals for the new year – No one knows how 2021 will play out, and it’s unlikely the market or business will return to normal in the first part of the year. Take into consideration the challenges you’ve faced so far in the pandemic as you plan for 2021. Work with your trusted advisor to determine several back-up plans for what if scenarios in case of any state or national lockdowns.  

In a year like no other, it’s crucial to prepare like no other so you’re not met with any surprises or devastating fees. Contact us today to set up your tax and business planning appointment.  

If a relative needs financial help, offering an intrafamily loan might seem like a good idea because they allow you to take advantage of low interest rates for wealth transfer purposes. But if not properly executed, such loans can carry negative tax consequences — such as unexpected taxable income, gift tax or both. Here are five tips to help avoid any unwelcome tax surprises:

1. Create a paper trail. In general, to avoid undesirable tax consequences, you need to be able to show that the loan was bona fide. To do so, document evidence of:

Be sure to make your intentions clear — and help avoid loan-related misunderstandings — by also documenting the loan payments received.

2. Demonstrate an intention to collect. Even if you think you may eventually forgive the loan, ensure the borrower makes at least a few payments. By having some repayment history, you’ll make it harder for the IRS to argue that the loan was really an outright gift. And if a would-be borrower has no realistic chance of repaying a loan, don’t make it. If you’re audited, the IRS is sure to treat such a loan as a gift.

3. Charge interest if the loan exceeds $10,000. If you lend more than $10,000 to a relative, charge at least the applicable federal interest rate (AFR). Be aware that interest on the loan will be taxable income to you. If no or below-AFR interest is charged, taxable interest is calculated under the complicated below-market-rate loan rules. In addition, all of the forgone interest over the term of the loan may have to be treated as a gift in the year the loan is made. This will increase your chances of having to use some of your lifetime exemption.

4. Use the annual gift tax exclusion. If you want to, say, help your daughter buy a house but don’t want to use up any of your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption, you can make the loan and charge interest and then forgive the interest, the principal payments or both each year under the annual gift tax exclusion. For 2020, you can forgive up to $15,000 per borrower ($30,000 if your spouse joins in the gift) without paying gift taxes or using any of your lifetime exemption. But you will still have interest income in the year of forgiveness.

Here is an example of how an intrafamily loan can save on taxes:

A $2 million interest-only loan is made from parent to child at an interest rate of 0.38%. If the loan proceeds are invested and grow at a rate of 5%, after repayment of interest and principal in year 5, the child is left with approximately $510,000 estate and gift tax-free. This arrangement also offers the flexibility to utilize the gift tax exemption at any time.

5. Forgive or file suit. If an intrafamily loan that you intended to collect is in default, don’t let it sit too long. To prove this was a legitimate loan that soured, you’ll need to take appropriate legal steps toward collection. If you know you’ll never collect and don’t want to file suit, begin forgiving the loan using the annual gift tax exclusion, if possible.

© 2020

If you haven’t converted to cloud-based accounting, it’s likely that COVID-19 may prompt you to make the switch. With more and more businesses and industries operating virtually, cloud access and real-time data has become more important than ever for making the best business decisions possible in uncertain times. With so much up in the air, you don’t want to be caught with a static accounting system that cannot keep up and provide the answers you need.

If you’re on the fence, we’ve put together the top 11 benefits of cloud-based accounting and the real-time data it provides.

1. Drill down on business performance – Real-time data through cloud-based accounting allows you to drill down on the key components of your business’s performance. You can get global or granular on factors such as location, project, customer, vendor, or department and see how each part is impacting your business in real-time. Additionally, you can use snapshots of your cash flow, revenue, expenses, and more to see how they compare year-over-year and how they are measuring up to your goals for this year.

2. Make better data-driven, real-time decisions – You’ve likely experience that last year’s or even last month’s data is irrelevant during these uncertain times. With real-time data, you can see clearly what’s holding you back now, or what’s working, and adjust accordingly. Without the real, hard data, these decisions can feel like a guessing game with a wait-and-see outcome, which is something most businesses cannot afford right now.

3. Make accurate predictions and forecasts – This accurate, up-to-date data allows you to feel more confident in the forecasting for the future your business. You have the facts in front of you to make more strategic predictions over the course of the year. Through the real-time data and historical facts, you can assess past performance, identify trends, and set goals and plans, making adjustments as needed along the way.

4. Automate processes – More and more, businesses are focused on automation, and there’s no better place to start than with your accounting. With cloud-based solutions, you can create automated workflows that handle much of the busy work for you like invoicing and paying vendors. This all funnels back into your real-time data so you can stay on top of your revenue and expenses.

5. Mitigate fraud and reduce errors – Mistakes and fraudulent activity can be more quickly and easily identified when you can see the transactions in real-time. The simplification of the software means less memorization of accounting practices, formulas, and Excel shortcuts – all of which can contribute to errors. And, the automatic reconciliation can help you detect fraud early. Being able to take timely action on errors and fraud can save your business big in the long run.

6. Simplify your reporting and EOY – Have you ever scrambled when a stakeholder asked for an up-to-date report on your business? Cloud-based accounting allows you to present an accurate, timely report in no time, simplifying the process for you and your stakeholders. Additionally, you avoid the end-of-year rush because you’ve been entering your information and tracking all year long, so tax bills aren’t as much of a surprise.

7. Simplify GST compliance – If you have general sales tax to track and monitor, you know it can be a challenge to assemble and file your GST returns. Cloud-based accounting tracks and applies GST automatically for you and allows you to pull a quick report when you’re ready to file.

8. Get access from anywhere – One of the best benefits of cloud-based accounting is that you can access your data from anywhere at any time. In the age of COVID-19 and working from home, this is especially beneficial for you and your team so everyone can stay on track and on task.

9. Collaborate with your accountant – Cloud-based accounting has simplified the transfer process of client information to accountant and saved both sides time and energy in equal measure. Gone are the days of having to download everything to a CD or flash drive and delivering it to your accountant. Now, you can collaborate together virtually and trust you’re both on the same page.

10. Simplify your technology – Cloud-based accounting eliminates hard downloads across multiple computers and saves your IT department (or you) the headache of making sure everyone is up-to-date across the company. Thanks to online hosting, IT doesn’t have to worry about updating the software either, so they can focus on other projects.

11. Get the tech support you need – Most cloud-based accounting platforms offer regular tech support to help you any hour of the day. You’ll also have access to forums of thousands of other users so you can discuss issues and share best practices. Keeping your program up and running and optimized contributes to better real-time data.

For assistance with choosing the right cloud-based accounting platform for your business, contact us today.