Small Business Tax

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Pros and Cons of a Paperless Business

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Has your bank, broker, credit card company, or maybe even your phone or utility company sent you information about getting your statements online instead of through the mail? Going paperless has its advantages — not the least of which may be seeing your countertop for the first time in months. But it also has its drawbacks. Before you completely eliminate paper statements, look at both the pros and cons.

The Benefits

When customers manage their accounts online, companies can save substantial amounts of money in printing and mailing costs. That’s why many companies offer incentives, such as reducing interest rates or fees or making donations to environmental groups, to encourage customers to go paperless. And fewer mailings mean there’s less risk that someone could steal personal documents from your mailbox and use the information fraudulently.

The Drawbacks

While companies claim financial information sent electronically is more secure, not everyone agrees. When they happen, security breaches can put your personal information at risk. And it may be easier to miss the e-mail or forget about reviewing statements or paying bills when you don’t have them right in front of you.

Another potential drawback: Retrieving statements that are more than a few months old may be difficult, although many companies say they’re working on archiving several years’ worth of documents.

Going paperless may be to your advantage, but weigh everything carefully before you sign up.

Take charge of your financial future. Give us a call, today, to find out how we can assist you and your business.

What Are Your Financial Ratios Telling You?

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hulksterHow’s business? Most business owners can answer that question without consulting a financial statement. But what if someone asks about “return on assets” or “average collection period”? To answer those questions, you need the help of financial ratios.

Inside the Numbers

A financial ratio is the numerical relationship between certain figures on your income statement and balance sheet. “Profit margin” is probably the most familiar financial ratio. Expressed as a percentage, profit margin is calculated by dividing net income by sales.

There are many useful ratios. They can provide information about liquidity, turnover, and debt, as well as profit. Digging “inside” the numbers can reveal such things as how quickly receivables are collected, how frequently inventory is turning over, and whether you’re in a good position to repay your financial obligations on time.

Putting Ratios to Work

While the numbers themselves are interesting, the real value comes from analyzing financial ratios. You can use ratios to spot trends, both good and bad, by comparing your company’s current situation with the past. And ratio analysis can help you with forecasting and goal setting.

Ratios can also be used to compare your company’s financial performance with that of other companies and with the industry as a whole. Another important use: Bankers frequently review a company’s financial ratios as part of the loan application process.

Some Common Ratios

The following key financial ratios are essential business management tools.

Current Ratio Current assets ÷

current liabilities

Does the company have sufficient resources to meet current liabilities when they come due?
Debt-to-Equity Total liabilities ÷

stockholders’ equity

How heavily is the company leveraged?
Gross Profit Margin Gross profit ÷ sales How much profit is available to cover operating expenses?
Net Profit Margin Net income ÷ sales How much profit is earned on each sales dollar after all expenses are accounted for?

For more tips on how to keep business best practices front and center for your company, give us a call today.

The Most Beautiful Summary of Trump’s Business Tax Cut. Period.

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker - RTX2GYKG

With some very broad brushstrokes, the Trump administration laid out its tax plan.  It is still very early in the process, and skepticism about how much of the plan will survive negotiations should be maintained.  This article will discuss a substantial reduction in taxes for business owners.

Very Major Overview

During the campaign, Donald Trump proposed cutting the maximum business tax rate to 15%.  There was uncertainty as to whether this 15% maximum tax rate would also apply to pass through entities such as LLCs and S corporations.  The uncertainty has been resolved as it is now clear that the 15% maximum tax rate applies to pass through entities and to sole proprietorships.

Tremendous and Beautiful Tax Cut

Example:  John owns an S corporation and it has profit of $200,000.  Assume John has other income and he is in the 35% tax bracket.  Under current law, his tax liability on the $200,000 S corporation profit would be $70,000 (35% times $200,000).  Under the Trump proposal, John’s maximum tax rate on the S corporation profit would be 15%, so his tax under the Trump plan would be $30,000. 

Example:  Same facts as above except John is a member of an LLC and his share of the LLC profit is $200,000.  Again, his maximum tax rate under the Trump plan is 15%, so his tax on the share of the LLC profit would be $30,000.

You May Even Get Tired of Paying Lower Taxes and You’ll Say “Please, Please, It’s Too Much.  We Can’t Take It Anymore.”   

There has been an incentive for S corporation owners to minimize officer compensation because S corporation owners only incur payroll taxes on their payroll, not on the remaining business profit.  The Trump plan would further encourage S corporation owners to minimize officer compensation because officer compensation would remain subject to higher income tax rates, while S corporation profit would be subject to the 15% maximum rate.

Example:  Jennifer has an S corporation with $100,000 profit before officer compensation.  Assume she has other income and is in the 35% tax bracket.  She has officer compensation of $60,000 and S corporation profit of $40,000 after officer compensation. 

Under current law, her tax would be:

Tax on Officer Compensation:       $21,000 (35% times $60,000)

Tax on S corporation profit:         $14,000 (35% times $40,000)

Total Tax                                             $35,000

Under the Trump plan, her tax would be:

Tax on Officer Compensation:    $21,000 (35% times $60,000)

Tax on S corporation profit:         $6,000 (15% times $40,000)

Total Tax                                             $27,000

 Joan prefers paying tax at the 15% tax rate so she reduces her payroll to $40,000 (leaving S corporation profit of $60,000). 

Under Trump plan with officer compensation reduction, her tax would be:

Tax on Officer Compensation      $14,000 (35% times $40,000)

Tax on S corporation profit:         $9,000 (15% times $60,000)

Total Tax                                             $23,000

Joan saves $4,000 by reducing her higher-taxed payroll and increasing her S corporation profit that is taxed at the 15% maximum rate.

There is already incentive for S corporation owners to minimize officer compensation because officer compensation is subject to payroll taxes (generally 15.3% FICA plus unemployment taxes) while S corporation profit is not subject to payroll taxes.  The Trump plan increases the incentive to minimize officer compensation.

If you need help with small business taxes,

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 Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

Realistic Like-Kind Exchange Scenarios

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MyRealty.am-2

A like-kind exchange allows a property owner to exchange properties with another person and defer paying tax on the exchange.  A prior post explained the basic mechanics of like-kind exchanges.  This post will focus on a couple more complicated, but also more realistic, situations.  These situations occur:

  • when one of the parties wants to receive cash instead of replacement property.  This situation usually involves a third or fourth person to qualify the transaction as a like-kind exchange.
  • when the exchanges do not occur simultaneously

Three Party Exchanges

Marty owns Property M.  Doc owns Property D.  Marty wants to enter into a like-kind exchange with Doc to acquire Property D.  Doc wants to sell Property D for cash.  After some searching, Marty finds Biff who wants to buy Property M for cash.

The three parties enter into a three party exchange as follows:

  1. Biff buys Property D from Doc for cash
  2. Biff exchanges Property D for Marty’s Property M in a like-kind exchange.

Everyone is happy—Doc gets the cash he wants; Marty exchanged Property M for Property D in a like-kind exchange; Biff paid cash and ultimately ended up owning Property M.

Four Party Exchanges

Assume the same facts as above, except that Biff does not want to acquire Property D because of environmental liability concerns.  A like-kind exchange can be accomplished through a four party exchange involving a qualified intermediary.

A qualified intermediary is a person who is not the taxpayer or a disqualified person and who expressly agrees under the terms of an exchange agreement to acquire the taxpayer’s relinquished property, transfer the relinquished property to another taxpayer, acquire the replacement property, and transfer the replacement property to the taxpayer.

A disqualified person is either related to the taxpayer or someone that has acted as the taxpayer’s agent, such as an attorney, accountant, real estate agent/broker,  at any time during the prior two years.  However, routine financial services provided to the taxpayer during this time by a financial institution (i.e., a bank), title insurance company, or escrow company are not taken into account—these institutions may serve as qualified intermediaries.

To see this in action, assume four parties enter into the following simultaneous exchanges:

  1. Marty engages Title Company as a qualified intermediary
  2. Title Company borrows money and buys Property D from Doc for cash (Doc receives the cash he wanted)
  3. Title Company exchanges Property D with Marty’s Property M (Marty exchanges Property M for Property D in a like-kind exchange)
  4. Title Company sells Property M to Biff for cash and pays off the loan (Biff pays cash to directly purchase Property M)

When Exchanges Do Not Occur Simultaneously

These exchanges are referred to as deferred exchanges.  These can occur when someone who wants to enter into a like-kind exchange finds a cash buyer for his property but needs additional time to find replacement property.  In these situations, the person will transfer property to the buyer, the buyer will transfer proceeds to an escrow agent, and the escrow agent will purchase replacement property to the seller once replacement property has been identified.  The seller cannot take possession of the cash, otherwise the transaction will fail as a like-kind exchange; that is why the escrow agent takes possession of the cash.

There are two primary requirements in deferred exchanges:

  • Identification Period:  Before this period expires, the taxpayer must identify replacement property to the other party who is obligated to transfer the replacement property to the taxpayer.  The identification period begins on the date the taxpayer transfers the relinquished property and ends 45 days after.  Up to three replacement properties can be identified without regard to the market value of the replacement property.  If more than three replacement properties are identified, the market value of all identified replacement properties cannot exceed 200% of the relinquished property.
  • Exchange Period:  Before this period expires, the taxpayer must receive the replacement property.  The exchange period also begins on the date the taxpayer transfers the relinquished property and ends on the earlier of (1) 180 days after OR (2) the due date (including extensions) of the tax return for the year in which the transfer of the relinquished property occurs.

Example:  Fred wants to exchange Property F in a like-kind exchange.  Barney wants to buy Property F for cash.  Fred enters into a deferred exchange where he transfers the property to Barney and Barney transfers cash to an escrow agent who will acquire the replacement property when it’s identified by Fred.  Fred has 45 days to identify replacement property to the escrow agent beginning the date he transfers the property to Barney.  Fred has 180 days to receive the replacement property beginning on the date he transfers the property to Barney. 

Assume Fred transfers the property to Barney in December.  Fred believes the exchange period will end in 180 days during June.  He files his tax return by April 15 and does not file an extension.  Fred closes on the replacement property in May, within the 180 days.  However, Fred failed the exchange period requirement because his return was not extended.  Remember—the exchange period ends on the earlier of (1) 180 days after the transfer or (2) the due date (including extensions) of the tax return.  Here, the April 15 unextended due date marked the end of the exchange period because it is earlier than 180 days after the transfer.  The exchange does not qualify as a like-kind exchange and Fred has a taxable gain based on the difference between the market value of the new property and his cost in the relinquished property. 

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 Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

 

Before You Start Development on that Land Investment…

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sale to s corporationLand prices have been recovering since the Great Recession. People who hold land for investment may be interested in developing then selling the land. If held for more than 12 months, gains from sales of investment real estate are subject to favorable capital gain rates (generally 15%, but up to 23.8% for high income individuals). However, people who do any development of the land generally will not qualify for capital gain treatment; they will be subject to ordinary income rates (up to 43.4%) on their entire gain from the sale of developed land.

Example: Jane owns a parcel of land she bought as an investment 20 years ago. She originally paid $200,000 for the parcel and it is now worth $300,000. Jane has not performed any development activity on the land. If she sells the land, her gain of $100,000 will be subject to the favorable capital gain tax rate of 15%. Her tax on the sale will be $15,000.

Example 2: Same as above, except that Jane spent $20,000 improving and developing the lane. She sells the parcel for $350,000. Her cost basis in the land is the $200,000 purchase price plus the $20,000 she spent on improvements–$220,000. If she sells the land for $350,000 her gain will be $130,000. Since she began developing the land, the gain of $130,000 no longer qualifies for capital gain treatment. The gain will be taxed at ordinary income rates. If Jane is in the 28% tax bracket, the tax on her gain will be $36,400.

Tax Strategy: Sell the Undeveloped Land to Your S Corporation

Through a tax-saving strategy, it is possible to have pre-development gains subject to the capital gain tax rate, and only gains from development will be subject to ordinary income rates. This is done by selling the investment land to an S corporation that the real estate investor owns before performing any development activity.

Example: Carrying on with the same fact scenario as above. Instead of developing the land herself, Jane first sells her investment property that she purchased for $200,000 to her 100% owned S corporation. The purchase price is the $300,000 market value of the land. She recognizes a $100,000 gain that is taxed at the 15% capital gain tax rate. Her tax on the pre-development gain is $15,000.

Her S corporation will now develop the land. The S corporation spends $20,000 to develop the land and the land is now worth $350,000. The S corporation’s cost basis in the land is the $300,000 purchase price plus $20,000 development costs–$320,000. When the S corporation sells the developed land for $350,000, it recognizes a $30,000 gain that is taxed at Joan’s ordinary tax rate of 28%. The tax on the $30,000 gain is $8,400. Her and her S corporation’s total tax is $23,400.

The Tax Savings

If she developed the land herself, her total tax would be $36,400 on $130,000 of total gain. By first selling the land to her S corporation, she is able to preserve capital gain treatment on the pre-development gain ($100,000) and only pays ordinary income tax rates on the gain allocable to development ($30,000). Her total tax with the S corporation strategy is $23,400. She saved $13,000.

Strategy Does NOT Work with an LLC

This strategy will generally only work with an S corporation. It will not work with LLCs because there is a rule denying capital gain treatment when an LLC owner sells property to his LLC and the property is ordinary income property of the LLC. Since the property held by the LLC will be sold at ordinary income rates, the LLC owner’s gain on the sale to the LLC will also be ordinary income.

Make Sure It’s a Bona Fide Sale for Fair Market Value

For this strategy to work, the sale to the S corporation must be a bona fide sale for fair market value. There should be a sales agreement, and if the sale is on an installment agreement, regular payments should be made and interest to the S corporation should be charged.

If you have any questions on how this applies to you, please feel free to give us a call at 248-538-5331.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

IRS Taxes Sweat Equity

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sweat equityWhen a taxpayer forms an LLC and contributes appreciated property to the LLC, the taxpayer generally does not recognize gain on the transfer.   The IRS does not force taxpayers to recognize gain on property contributions to LLCs because taxpayers didn’t sell or exchange the property; they continue to own an interest in the contributed property, albeit through a business entity.  Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule where gain can be recognized such as where debt encumbered property is transferred to the LLC or investments are transferred to an investment LLC.

On the other hand, when a taxpayer performs services (i.e., sweat equity) in exchange for an interest in an LLC, the taxpayer will usually recognize compensation income equal to the fair market value of the LLC interest received.  The IRS treats the transaction as if the taxpayer received cash compensation (which is taxable), and then used the cash to purchase the LLC interest at fair market value.

There are two forms of ownership interests in an LLC—a capital interest and a profits interest.  A capital interest gives the owner a claim to assets when the LLC is dissolved.  A profits interest is defined as an interest other than a capital interest.  Helpful.  Basically, a profits interest does not entitle the owner to assets upon the LLC’s liquidation, but instead entitles the owner to a share of the LLC’s profits (if any).

A taxpayer who performs services in exchange for a capital interest recognizes income in the amount of the fair market value of the capital interest.  However, a taxpayer who performs services in exchange for a profits interest will not recognize income on receipt of the profits interest.  This is because the profits interest holder is not entitled to liquidation proceeds of the LLC, but is instead entitled solely to LLC profits (if any).  Profits interests holders therefore have an speculative value in their interests and will not recognize income upon receipt of the interest, but will instead pay tax on any profits that are allocated to them.

Example 1:  Thelma and Louise form an LLC.  Thelma contributes land that is currently worth $50,000 and was originally purchased for $20,000 for a 50% capital interest.  Louise will perform real estate advisory services for a 50% capital interest.  Since both parties own a 50% capital interest, each would be entitled to 50% of the assets upon liquidation—Thelma and Louise would each own 50% of the land upon liquidation.  Thelma does not recognize income upon her contribution because it is a contribution of property.  Louise will recognize income of $25,000 because she contributed services in exchange for a capital interest.

Example 2:  Same as above except that Louise received a profits interest instead of a capital interest.  If the LLC liquidates, Louise will not share in the liquidation assets.  Instead, Thelma will receive 100% of the land.  Louise will not be taxed on her contribution of services because she received only a profits interest.  However, Louise will recognize income for any profits that are allocated to her in the future.

While a profits interest is generally not subject to tax because of their unascertainable value, there are circumstances where their value is ascertainable.  In these circumstances, the profits interests will be taxable upon receipt.  These circumstances include:

  • the profits interest relates to a substantially certain and predictable stream of income from the partnership assets (such as a net lease);
  • the partner disposes of the profits interest within two years of receipt; or
  • the profits interest is a limited partner interest in a publicly traded partnership.

While a capital interest received in exchange for services usually is taxable, it is not immediately taxable if the capital interest is subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture.  Property is subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture if the rights to its full enjoyment are conditioned (directly or indirectly) upon either of the following:

  • Future Performance of Substantial Services. A requirement of future performance (or refraining from performance) of substantial services by the recipient is a substantial risk of forfeiture. The regularity of the performance of services and the time spent in performing them tend to indicate whether the required services are substantial.
  • Occurrence of a Condition Related to a Purpose of the Transfer. For example, a requirement that the recipient complete an advanced educational degree, obtain a professional designation, or attain a certain job position within the company to receive unrestricted access to the property would likely be a substantial risk of forfeiture, which would exist until that condition was met.

When the capital interest is subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture, the service provider will not recognize gain until the substantial risk of forfeiture is eliminated.

Example:  Same as Example 1 above except that Louise’s capital interest will be forfeited if Louise does not provide 5 years of services to the LLC.  Since Louise’s capital interest is subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture, it is not taxable in the year of receipt.  Instead, it will be taxable after Louise completes 5 years of service and her capital interest is fully vested.

If you need help with small business taxes,

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 Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

 

New Deadlines for 2016 Tax Forms–Avoid Late Penalties!

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time-371226_1920As you know, the tax system is made up of all types of deadlines.  This year, deadlines that we have long been accustomed to are changing.  These changing deadlines apply to Forms W-2 and 1099-MISC as well as to income tax forms such as the Form 1065 for entities taxed as partnerships and the Form 1120 for C corporations.  This post will describe the new deadlines for each of these items.

Forms W-2 and 1099-MISC

When a business pays a worker who is not an employee $600 or more in a year, the business must file an information return using Form 1099-MISC (miscellaneous income) to report the payments.  Likewise, an employer must report wages paid to employees on Form W-2.  In prior years, these forms had to be provided to the worker by January 31 of the following year and copies were required to be filed with the IRS (Form 1099-MISC) and the Social Security Administration (Form W-2) by the last day of February, or by March 31 if filing electronically.

Starting with 2016 forms (due in 2017), the due dates for IRS and Social Security Administration have been accelerated to January 31 of the following year (no longer the last day of February, or March 31 for electronic filers).  So, 2016 Forms W-2 and 1099-MISC will need to be filed with the government by January  31, 2017–the same date that the forms have to be provided to workers.

Failing to file these returns timely can result in significant penalties–beginning at $50 per 1099-MISC or W-2 filed late.

Form 1065 (U.S. Return of Partnership Income)

Under prior law, partnership tax returns were due three and a half months after the end of the year (i.e., April 15).  Since the partnership tax return was due on the same day as personal income tax returns, many owners of partnerships (or LLCs taxed as partnerships) did not receive their Form K-1 from the partnership in time to file their personal returns by the April 15 personal income tax deadline.

Beginning with 2016 partnership tax returns, the deadline has been moved up to two and a half months after the end of the partnership tax year (i.e., March 15).  Six month extensions to September 15 are available.

It is important to either timely file the partnership tax return or to request an extension.  If the return is filed late, the penalty is $195 per owner per month!  So if a five member LLC unaware of the new deadline files a partnership tax return on April 15, the return is one month late and the penalty is $975.

Form 1120 (U.S. Corporation Income tax Return)

The deadline for C CORPORATION tax returns has been two and a half months after the end of the corporate year (generally March 15).  Beginning with 2016 C corporation tax returns, the deadline has been moved back to three and a half months after the end of the corporate tax year (generally April 15).  Since C corporations are not flow-through tax entities, the owner’s personal tax return is not dependent on the filing of the C corporation tax return.   Delaying the C corporation deadline and accelerating the partnership tax return deadline therefore makes some sense.

Form 1120S (U.S. Return of S Corporation Income)

No changes here–the deadline is still March 15.

FinCen Form 114 (FBAR)

In prior years, foreign bank accounts had to be reported to the IRS by June 30, and no extensions were allowed.  Beginning this year, the due date for FinCen 114 will be April 15 of the following year, but a six month extension will now be allowed.  The  extension will last to October 15.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, if a due date falls on a holiday or weekend, the return is due on the next business day.  Unfortunately, the FinCen 114 form is required under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 and not under the Internal Revenue Code–so if the April 15 deadline for FinCen 114 falls on a holiday or weekend, the due date will not be delayed to the next business day (even though the Form 1040 will be delayed to the next working day).

So this tax season, April 15 is on a Saturday and Monday, April 17 is Emancipation Day, so the Form 1040 due date will be April 18.  Since the FinCen 114 is outside of the Internal Revenue Code, its due date remains April 15.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

New Deadline for Form 1099-MISC–Avoid Late Penalties!

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Form 1099MISC deadlineForm 1099-MISC has to be filed when payments are made in the course of a trade or business.  Personal payments do not have to be reported on a Form 1099-MISC.  The IRS requires businesses to issue Form 1099-MISC to the payee and submit a copy to the IRS.  This is done to ensure that the payee reports and pays income tax on the payment.

NEW FILING DEADLINE FOR FORM 1099-MISC

Starting with 2016 Form 1099-MISCs, the IRS copy of the form must be filed with the IRS by January 31 if you are reporting payments in box 7 (non-employee compensation).  The prior due date was February 28 (and March 31 if filing electronically).  The form filing deadline for payments outside of box 7 (e.g., rent or royalty) have not changed (i.e., due February 28 or, if filed electronically, March 31).  The payee copy, regardless of the type of payment, is still due on January 31.

Penalties for Late Filing/Non-Filing

If the Form 1099 is filed within 30 days after the deadline, the penalty is $50 per 1099.  If the Form 1099 is filed between 30 days after the deadline and by August 1, the penalty is $100 per 1099.  If the Form 1099 is filed after August 1 (or not filed at all), the penalty is $260 per 1099.  If there is intentional disregard of the filing requirement, the penalty is $530 per 1099.

The above penalties apply if the form is not filed with either the IRS or the payee.  If the Form 1099 is not filed with either the IRS or the payee, the above penalty is essentially doubled.

What Type of Payments Have to Be Reported on Form 1099-MISC?

Payments that require the filing of a Form 1099-MISC include:

  • $10 or more in royalty payments
  • At least $600 in:
    • Rents
    • Services provided to you by someone who is not your employee (e.g., independent contractor)
    • Prizes and awards
    • Other income payments
    • Crop insurance proceeds
    • Cash payments for fish (or other aquatic life) you purchase from anyone engaged in the trade or business of catching fish
    • Cash paid from a notional principal contract to an individual, partnership, or estate
    • Payments to an attorney
    • Any fishing boat proceeds

In addition, Form 1099-MISC is used to report that you made direct sales of at least $5,000 of consumer products to a buyer for resale anywhere other than a permanent retail establishment.

What Payments Do NOT Have to Be Reported on Form 1099-MISC?

Certain payments do not have to be reported on Form 1099-MISC, although they may still be taxable to the payee.  Common payments that do not have to be reported on a Form 1099-MISC include:

  • Payments to a corporation (see exceptions below)
  • Payments to an LLC that elects to be treated as a corporation (again, see exceptions below)
  • Payments for merchandise
  • Wages paid to employees
  • Payments of rent to real estate agents (but the real estate agent must use Form 1099-MISC to report the rent paid over to the property owner)
  • Payments made by credit cards (the credit card company will issue a 1099-K to the recipient)

When Payments to Corporations Must Be Reported on Form 1099-MISC

Form 1099-MISC is required for payments to corporations for:

  • Medical and health care payments
  • Fish purchases
  • Attorney fees
  • Gross payments to attorneys (generally by insurance companies)
  • Substitute payments in lieu of dividends

When Backup Withholding is Required

You must withhold 28% of the payment you make to certain recipients.  This withholding is referred to as backup withholding and is paid to the IRS.  Backup withholding is required when:

  • The payee fails to furnish a SSN or TIN (it is recommended to get the payee’s SSN or TIN prior to the payee performing any services for you)
  • IRS notifies payer to impose backup withholding

To see how this applies to you, give us a call at 248-538-5331.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

Crowdfunding & Taxes

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crowdfunding taxSome start-up businesses looking to raise capital have turned to crowdfunding as an alternative to venture capital.  Crowdfunding is a way for businesses and entrepreneurs to solicit online contributions from multiple parties.  This is typically done through a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) or AngelList (www.angel.co).

Crowdfunding has increased in popularity since the enactment of Title III of the Jumpstart our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012.  This act created a federal exemption under the securities law to permit companies to offer and sell securities through crowdfunding.  Since that time, this practice has generated billions in capital for startups and small businesses.

While this is becoming a more popular method of raising funds, little is known about how such fund-raising models are taxed.

As a general rule, crowdfunding contributions are includable in the startup’s taxable income.  However, depending on how the contribution is structured, the contribution may qualify as a tax-free loan, gift, or capital contribution.

Tax-Free Loan

Crowdfunding contributions structured as loans are tax-free.  However, the arrangement must have sufficient debt-like characteristics.  Debt-like characteristics include an unconditional promise to repay, a fixed interest rate, and a specified maturity date.  If the interest rate depends on the profitability or cash-flow of the business, then it may be considered an equity contribution (which may also qualify as tax-free).  Funds transferred without a bona fide repayment obligation will be taxable even if the parties characterize the deal as a loan.

Tax-Free Gift

If the contribution is a gift, then it is not taxable to the business.  To qualify as a gift, the contribution must be out of a detached and disinterested generosity.  Basically, the donor does not expect any repayment or return on the contribution—it is done out of generosity.  If the donor receives anything of benefit from the contribution, the contribution will be taxable to the business.

Some crowdfunding platforms offer rewards in exchange for contributions.  These rewards may negate a contributor’s donative intent unless the reward is clearly inconsequential.  There is no direct guidance on how to determine if a reward is inconsequential, but the IRS’ guidance on quid pro quo charitable contributions may provide some help.

If the contribution qualifies as a gift, the contributor may have a gift tax issue if the contribution exceeds $14,000.

Tax-Free Equity Contribution

If the crowdfunding contribution qualifies as a contribution to equity and the contributor becomes an owner, it will generally be tax-free to the business and the contributor.

Where We Stand

So far, there are no statutes, regulations, court cases, or IRS rulings that directly address the taxability of crowdfunding contributions.  For now, it is safe to assume that crowdfunding contributions will be taxable income unless it qualifies as a loan, gift, or capital contribution.

To see how this applies to you, give us a call at 248-538-5331.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

How Long Should Tax Records be Kept?

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tax recordsBusinesses must maintain tax records to substantiate amounts reported on their tax returns.  Because of the hustle and bustle of business ownership, many business owners consider record keeping a low priority.

Bad Things Happen When Records Are Not Kept

However, if the IRS audits a business and the business owner has failed to maintain adequate records, the result can be catastrophic.  Imagine spending $20,000 on marketing and failing to keep records of this expense.  If the IRS disallows the deduction, and the taxpayer is in the 25% tax bracket, the IRS will send a bill for $5,000 plus significant penalties and interest.  Imagine if the business owner had $200,000 in expenses and didn’t keep adequate records.

The IRS Requires Records to be Kept

Every taxpayer is required by IRC Section 6001 to maintain adequate tax records and to make those records available to the IRS upon request.  When determining how long to keep tax records, we typically look at the relevant statute of limitations periods—the period of time a taxpayer can amend a tax return to claim a credit or refund or for the IRS to assess additional tax.  The statute of limitations begins running from the tax return’s original due date (generally April 15th), or the date filed, if later.

The statute of limitations is generally 3 years.  However, the limitations period is 6 years if the tax return understates gross income by more than 25%.  There is no statute of limitations if a tax return was never filed or a fraudulent return was filed. There are special statutes of limitations for certain types of deductions (e.g., a 7 year statute of limitations applies to bad debts and worthless securities).

How Long Should Records be Kept?

A good rule of thumb is to add one year to the statute of limitations period.  You often hear tax records should be kept for 7 years.  This is based on the 6 year statute of limitations for returns that have a greater than 25% understatement of income, plus one year.

Certain tax records, however, should be kept much longer than described above and, in some cases, indefinitely.  Records substantiating the purchase price of property that could eventually be sold, such as investment property and business assets, should be retained based on the record retention period for the year the property is sold.

Keep in mind that there may be nontax reasons to hold on to records beyond the time needed for tax purposes.  This might include documents such as insurance policies, leases, real estate closing statements, employment records, and other legal documents.

The 7 year retention policy for tax purposes is a good rule of thumb (unless a special statute of limitations applies).  The State of Michigan has a 4 year statute of limitations, in general.  The 7 year retention policy will thus work well in the State of Michigan.

Records Can be Scanned into Computer Files

It’s also important to know that the IRS allows taxpayers to store certain tax documents electronically.  The rules permit taxpayers to convert paper documents to electronic files (e.g., pdf or image files) and maintain only the electronic files.  Then, the paper documents can be destroyed.  Certain requirements must be met to take advantage of the electronic filing system, so contact us if you have any questions.

To see how this applies to you, give us a call at 248-538-5331.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

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