Do you play a major role in a closely held corporation and sometimes spend money on corporate expenses personally? These costs may wind up being nondeductible both by an officer and the corporation unless proper steps are taken. This issue is more likely to arise in connection with a financially troubled corporation.
Deductible vs. nondeductible expenses
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.
What’s more, 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.
When 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 for 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.
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.
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:
- Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.
- 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.
- 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?
In general, start-up expenses are those you make to:
- Investigate the creation or acquisition of a business,
- Create a business, or
- Engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beginning in the third quarter of 2021, the following modifications apply to the ERTC:
- Applicable employment taxes are the Medicare hospital taxes (1.45% of the wages) and the Railroad Retirement payroll tax that’s attributable to the Medicare hospital tax rate. For the first and second quarters of 2021, “applicable employment taxes” were defined as the employer’s share of Social Security or FICA tax (6.2% of the wages) and the Railroad Retirement Tax Act payroll tax that was attributable to the Social Security tax rate.
- Recovery startup businesses are qualified employers. These are generally defined as businesses that began operating after February 15, 2020, and that meet certain gross receipts requirements. These recovery startup businesses will be eligible for an increased maximum credit of $50,000 per quarter, even if they haven’t experienced a significant decline in gross receipts or been subject to a full or partial suspension under a government order.
- A “severely financially distressed” employer that has suffered a decline in quarterly gross receipts of 90% or more compared to the same quarter in 2019 can treat wages (up to $10,000) paid during those quarters as qualified wages. This allows an employer with over 500 employees under severe financial distress to treat those wages as qualified wages whether or not employees actually provide services.
- The statute of limitations for assessments relating to the ERTC won’t expire until five years after the date the original return claiming the credit is filed (or treated as filed).
Contact us if you have any questions related to your business claiming the ERTC.
Earlier this year, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was announced, including some temporary updates to the child tax credits available for many parents. Under the ARP, eligible parents of dependent children can take a tax deduction of up to $3,600 per child, depending on the child’s age and household income.
Part of this tax deduction is currently planned to be distributed to parents in the form of monthly payments from the IRS. For every child under the age of 6, parents will receive $300 per month starting on July 15 and ending on December 15. For children age 6 to 17, parents will receive $250 per month. Any remaining amount on the child tax credits will be eligible to be taken during the regular tax filing season.
The child tax credit update portal
The IRS has released a website where parents, including eligible non-filer parents, may make their designations concerning the child tax credits and scheduled deposits. This includes updating bank account information for direct deposits, even if previous economic stimulus payments were sent via check.
For parents that want to forego the advance payments and take their child tax credit in one lump sum during their tax filings, you may opt-out using this portal. The deadline to opt-out for the first payment was June 28. If you opt-out after that deadline, you will still receive the first payment if you qualify. In addition to personal preference, filers may want to opt-out of these payments because:
- Your 2021 income will be higher, and you suspect you will no longer be eligible to claim the full child tax credit.
- A spouse or family member qualifies to claim the child or children as dependents for the 2021 tax year.
- You resided outside of the United States for greater than six months in 2021.
Now would be a good time to discuss with a tax professional any benefits or drawbacks to accepting the monthly advance payments to the child tax credit.
Note: Parents who are married couples filing jointly must BOTH opt-out of receiving the payments, or you may still receive a partial payment.
Who will receive monthly payments?
Payments will be received by eligible parties starting around July 15, 2021. You can check your eligibility using this tool created by the IRS. Currently, the IRS is using 2019 and 2020 tax filings to decide who may be eligible. If you are a non-filer and have registered for the Economic Impact Payments online previously, you should not need to register for the child tax credit advance payments at this time. If you have not previously registered, you may do so at the Non-filer Sign Up Tool here.
You can also find more about the temporary increase for the child tax credit and the upcoming advance payments here.
Be sure to speak with your tax professional to determine the best course of action moving forward with these advance tax credit payments. Our team of experts is available to assist you.
As we continue to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be traveling again for business. Under tax law, there are a number of rules for deducting the cost of your out-of-town business travel within the United States. These rules apply if the business conducted out of town reasonably requires an overnight stay.
Note that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employees can’t deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses through 2025 on their own tax returns. That’s because unreimbursed employee business expenses are “miscellaneous itemized deductions” that aren’t deductible through 2025.
However, self-employed individuals can continue to deduct business expenses, including away-from-home travel expenses.
Here are some of the rules that come into play.
Transportation and meals
The actual costs of travel (for example, plane fare and cabs to the airport) are deductible for out-of-town business trips. You’re also allowed to deduct the cost of meals and lodging. Your meals are deductible even if they’re not connected to a business conversation or other business function. The Consolidated Appropriations Act includes a provision that removes the 50% limit on deducting eligible business meals for 2021 and 2022. The law allows a 100% deduction for food and beverages provided by a restaurant. Takeout and delivery meals provided by a restaurant are also fully deductible.
Keep in mind that no deduction is allowed for meal or lodging expenses that are “lavish or extravagant,” a term that’s been interpreted to mean “unreasonable.”
Personal entertainment costs on the trip aren’t deductible, but business-related costs such as those for dry cleaning, phone calls and computer rentals can be written off.
Combining business and pleasure
Some allocations may be required if the trip is a combined business/pleasure trip, for example, if you fly to a location for five days of business meetings and stay on for an additional period of vacation. Only the cost of meals, lodging, etc., incurred for the business days are deductible — not those incurred for the personal vacation days.
On the other hand, with respect to the cost of the travel itself (plane fare, etc.), if the trip is “primarily” business, the travel cost can be deducted in its entirety and no allocation is required. Conversely, if the trip is primarily personal, none of the travel costs are deductible. An important factor in determining if the trip is primarily business or personal is the amount of time spent on each (although this isn’’t the sole factor).
If the trip doesn’t involve the actual conduct of business but is for the purpose of attending a convention, seminar, etc., the IRS may check the nature of the meetings carefully to make sure they aren’t vacations in disguise. Retain all material helpful in establishing the business or professional nature of this travel.
The rules for deducting the costs of a spouse who accompanies you on a business trip are very restrictive. No deduction is allowed unless the spouse is an employee of you or your company, and the spouse’s travel is also for a business purpose.
Finally, note that personal expenses you incur at home as a result of taking the trip aren’t deductible. For example, the cost of boarding a pet while you’re away isn’t deductible. Contact us if you have questions about your small business deductions.
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
- Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2021 (Form 941) and pay any tax due.
- Employers file a 2020 calendar-year retirement plan report (Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ) or request an extension.
Tuesday, August 10
- Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2021 (Form 941), if you deposited all associated taxes that were due in full and on time.
Wednesday, September 15
- Individuals pay the third installment of 2021 estimated taxes, if not paying income tax through withholding (Form 1040-ES).
- If a calendar-year corporation, pay the third installment of 2021 estimated income taxes.
- If a calendar-year S corporation or partnership that filed an automatic extension:
- File a 2020 income tax return (Form 1120S, Form 1065 or Form 1065-B) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due.
- Make contributions for 2020 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.
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.
In 2020, there was record-breaking new business growth in the United States. The sheer number of new businesses was 24 percent higher than the prior year, with new employee identification number (EIN) applications breaking records in Quarter 3. This all took place despite the pandemic that has swept around the world. In the 1930s, an Austrian economist described this phenomenon of new business growth in times of uncertainty as “creative destruction.” In short, this creative destruction happens as people come up with new ways to overcome challenges – like the inability to shop in person due to lockdowns or health concerns.
However exciting or successful your new business may be at marketing and sales, it’s hard to know what you don’t know about the finance functions and find the time to manage the books and your other priorities. Brushing important accounting and record-keeping tasks to the side can hurt your bottom line and create stress when tax payments are due. So how do you tackle this problem? Keep reading to find out.
Your business will thrive when the finance functions are in working order. Business owners quickly realize they will either need to carve out the necessary time to manage their organization’s finances or hire someone else to do it.
Hiring a CFO is one option. However, most new businesses do not have forty hours of work for a qualified individual. This is when outsourcing CFO services can be a practical solution.
The benefits of working with an outsourced CFO:
- Lower Operating Costs – Any change that will reduce costs without otherwise endangering operations will generally be positive. Many businesses are just too small to justify hiring a full-time, in-house CFO.
- Increased Efficiency – Inefficient operations harm your organization. A real advantage of outsourcing is that behind your outsourced financial planning expert stands an entire team of accountants, partners, consultants, and bookkeepers. When financial activities are outsourced and analyzed by an independent party specializing in that activity, efficiencies will result.
- More Flexibility – When a business owner wears too many hats, one is bound to fall off. Outsourcing CFO functions will allow your organization to become more flexible in dealing with its environment and core activities. Changes that make an organization more agile will make it better able to excel.
- Reduced Risk – Outsourcing a function may reduce the risk an organization faces. Outsourcing payroll, for example, is likely to reduce risk, as experts will now do the job.
- New Ideas – Outsourcing CFO duties will bring new ideas to the table. Small businesses need to recognize that outsourcing an expert will give them a clear advantage with complex financial activities.
- High Growth Potential – Many organizations are limited in taking on more activities because their current staff is spread too thin. Outsourcing financial activities can allow business owners and other staff to engage in better-targeted tasks.
Outsourcing services from your organization can help you operate more effectively. With our requisite knowledge of different organizational structures, we can help you create innovative changes in your organization. If you would like to learn more, please call our office to speak with one of our professionals and learn how our outsourced CFO services can help enhance the success of your business.
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:
- Net income: Net income is what is left of your revenue after you’ve subtracted expenses and tax liability. Tracking changes in your net income and understanding when, why, and how it changes can help provide better forecasting for future business decisions.
- Days in Accounts Receivable: When an invoice is issued, how long until the payment comes in? Days in accounts receivable provide this average. If the number is trending far past the terms negotiated on the contract, it may be time to shift the collection efforts, so cash is coming in to help offset the initial costs of future work.
- Liquidity: Measuring liquidity tells an owner how likely they are to meet short-term obligations (anything under a year). Take current assets and divide them by the total of current liabilities to get this statistic.
- The average revenue per hour worked: Knowing how much revenue each employee or subcontractor generates can help an owner better cost out jobs and plan for jobs that make more money for the firm. In addition, it allows them to see where staffing is benefitting the company. If you have an employee who has a low average revenue per hour worked ratio, consider whether their assistance frees up other workers to handle more revenue-generating activities (i.e., business pitches instead of handling the books).
- Time and cost rate: When bidding out future jobs and planning for a steady stream of income for your business, knowing how long it will take certain projects and the average cost is imperative. It allows companies to predict their timeline better so that clients are not always delayed because a current job is running late and tying up workers.
- Bid development: Cashflow forecasting models need to know not only what upcoming projects there are (and the expected impact on the construction firm) but the jobs currently in the bidding pipeline. Estimating the profit, when the contract would begin and end, and the likelihood that the bid will be chosen can be an early indicator of cash flow bottlenecks. If the bid pipeline is looking lower, it’s time to start finding more business.
In addition to these more traditional KPIs, the following also impact profitability.
- Safety: Safety accidents can cause worker injury meaning staff shortages and higher employment costs.
- Quality assurance: Do certain employees, subcontractors, or types of projects usually lean toward cost overruns, errors that need correcting, missed site inspections, or low customer satisfaction? All of those concerns can eat away at the expected profit from a job.
- Worker performance: If workers are not efficient and effective with their time, they could be causing quality assurance issues or cost overruns from wasted time on the clock.
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 last few years have afforded quite a few changes in how the IRS allows businesses to handle meal and entertainment costs in relation to their taxes. The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated deductions for most business-related entertainment expenses. Since the pandemic, the IRS has temporarily changed the tax-deductible amount allowed for some business meals to encourage increased sales at restaurants. With the easing of restrictions, businesses may be considering company picnics for employee appreciation or starting up business lunches with clients again.
With all of these changes, putting a system in place to accurately track business food and entertainment expenses becomes essential. Best practices should include requesting detailed receipts and separately tracking which costs fall under the 50 percent deduction, 100 percent deduction, or not deductible categories.
In addition to keeping excellent records, below are some additional things to keep in mind about the business meal and entertainment deduction rules, including a helpful chart highlighting the deduction category particular meal and entertainment expenses fall under.
Meal and entertainment expense changes
Under the TCJA, the IRS no longer allows businesses to deduct most entertainment expenses even if they were a cost of doing business. Food and beverage related to entertainment venues are only covered with detailed receipts separately stating the cost of the meal.
Another change from the TCJA is that spouse or guest meals are not covered from travel unless the business employs the person. So, if your spouse accompanies you on a work trip, their meals are not deductible for the business.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) has temporarily increased the deduction for business meals provided by restaurants to 100 percent for tax years 2021 and 2022. Not all meals are created equal, however. The 100 percent deduction is only available for meals provided by restaurants, which the IRS defines as: “A business that prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the food or beverages are consumed on the business’s premises.” Prepackaged food from a grocery, specialty, or convenience store is not eligible for the 100% deduction and would be limited to a 50% deduction.
Also, note that the expenses must be considered ordinary (common and accepted for your business) or necessary (helpful and appropriate) and cannot be considered lavish or extravagant. An employee of the business or the taxpayer must be present during the meal, as well.
A quick guide to business meal deductions
||Tax Code Reference
|Company social events and facilities for employees (e.g., holiday parties, team-building events)
||IRC Secs. 274(e)(4) and 274(n)(2)(A)
|Meals and entertainment included in employee or non-employee compensation
||IRC Secs. 274(e)(2) and (9)
|Reimbursed expenses under an accountable plan
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(3)
|Meals and entertainment made available to the public
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(7)
|Meals and entertainment sold to customers
||IRC Sec. 274(e)(8)
|Business travel meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|IRC Secs. 274(e)(3) and 274(e)(9)
|Client/customer business meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|Business meeting meals
100% (1/1/2021 to 12/31/2022)*
|IRC Secs 274(e)(5), 274(k)(1), and 274(e)(6)
|De minimis food and beverages provided in the workplace (e.g., bottled water, coffee, snacks)
|IRC Sec 274(e)(1)
|Meals provided for the convenience of the employer
||50% (through 12/31/2025)
0% (on or after 1/1/2026)
|IRC Sec. 274(n) and 274(o)
|Employer-operated eating facilities
||50% (through 12/31/2025)
0% (on or after 1/1/2026)
|IRC Sec. 274(n) and 274(o)
|Meals/beverages associated with entertainment activities when not separated stated on the receipt
|Personal, lavish, or extravagant meals/beverages in relation to the activity
||IRC Secs. 274(k)(1) and 274(k)(2)
|Entertainment without exception
||IRC Secs. 274(a)(1) and 274(e)
*Meals are only deductible in the 2021 and 2022 tax years if provided by a restaurant, as defined by the IRS in the above article.
If you need help establishing a system to better track expenses or seek clarification on whether certain expenses are tax-deductible, give our team of CPAs a call today.