All posts by John Massey

The (potential) 20% Deduction Business Owners Should Understand

Last December, one of the biggest (real news) headlines was the drastic tax reform working its way through the legislative process. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was officially signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017 and it represents the most comprehensive tax reform in decades.

The more dramatic changes have been well publicized, but as with much of the Internal Revenue Code, some of the logistics are hard to comprehend. Arguably the most reformative of these changes is the Section 199A Deduction for Qualified Business Income. The Qualified Business Income Deduction (QBID) exemplifies congresses intent to organically aid in the growth of business. Staying consistent with the right’s traditional nod to trickle-down economic theories, the current administration is betting that increased liquidity via tax savings will be reinvested in capital assets and hiring.

QBID is a “below the line” deduction on Form 1040 that is available to sole proprietors and recipients of pass-through income (i.e. from S-Corporations and Partnerships). It is likely that part of the initiative behind QBID was to even the playing field for businesses not operating as C-Corporations. Under the TCJA, C-Corporations now enjoy a flat 21% tax rate; with individual rates being as high as 37%, a business operating as a C-Corp could otherwise have advantages over S-Corps or Partnerships whose owner(s) reside in the top tax bracket. It seems to this author that the extension of the corporate tax break to small business owners not only fit the republican economic agenda, but it also is likely to have helped proponents of the bill increase public support amongst business owners.

To narrow the gap in tax rates between large corporations and small businesses, congress decided to allow individuals a deduction on their personal tax returns equivalent to 20% of QBI (qualified business income). Assume for purposes of an illustration that the only item on a single filer’s tax return is $150,000 of business income and that they take the standard deduction. In 2018 this nets to $138,000 of taxable income and $27,410 of tax. Now consider all things the same, except the $150,000 of business income is qualified within the confines of QBID. In the later scenario, the taxpayer’s taxable income nets to $110,400, with tax of $20,786 and a net tax savings of $6,624 because of the new deduction.

As with most tax breaks in the Internal Revenue Code, there are however caveats, and they are complicated. There is an income threshold for example: single filers with taxable income above $157,500 (or $315,000 for joint filers) will need to consider their employees’wages and the company’s depreciable assets into their QBID calculation, as their deduction will be limited by one of these two factors.

Further, a taxpayer is subject to a complete phase-out of the deduction if he or she works in one of the few service industries specified by congress “where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees.” Services in the fields of health, law, accounting and consulting are a few that fall into this category. If the AGI of a professional in one of these fields exceeds $207,500 (or $415,000 if they file joint) then the QBID escapes them entirely.

There was in fact a bit of “fake news” surrounding the legislation in regards to how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was going to “simplify” the tax code. For some taxpayers, it probably did, the increased standard deduction will mean that many taxpayers will no longer need to itemize deductions. For other taxpayers however, specifically those who own a business, the tax environment got more complicated. The word “potential” is the best way to describe the QBID. Taxpayers whose income typically falls near the thresholds are going to have to be meticulous in how they structure things both at the entity level and on their personal returns to maximize the potential QBID. Diligent tax preparers are working with their clients to navigate the regulations and some interesting strategies are being passed around the CPA community. In the end it is going to come down to effective tax planning. Far too often taxpayers inadvertently omit deductions they would otherwise be entitled to had they planned properly. The QBID has potential to save a lot of people a lot of money, they just need to do their homework.

John Massey is a Senior Accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs. He helps individuals and businesses with tax planning preparation and works on compiled and reviewed financial statements for businesses. He can be reached at 207-873-1603.

Pay Attention When You Get Paid

Over the past couple of months, it has been hard to avoid the noise coinciding with what is formally known as the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Now that the bill has passed, and much of that noise has become a reality, the consequences of the reform are impossible to avoid.

While the broader effects of the new legislation are yet to be seen, there are some components of the law that will have an effect on the majority of Americans within the next few weeks.

On January 11, 2018, the IRS released Notice 1036, which serves to update employers on how much federal tax they should be withholding from their employee’s paychecks. Implementation of the new withholding amounts (as adjusted for the new tax landscape) is to begin “as soon as possible, but not later than February 15th, 2018”. To put it simply, this means that many of us will see a change in our take home pay very soon.

You may recall filling out a Form W-4 when you began your employment? That form is what your employer uses to calculate the amount of federal income tax they should remit from your paycheck. Using the updated withholding tables released with Notice 1036, employers will be adjusting their employees’ paychecks to more accurately cover their (new) income tax liability.

Here is what is important to remember: while employers can accurately determine the amount of tax owed based off of the wages they pay their employees, they have no way of considering the other elements that factor into an employee’s tax situation. Taxpayers need to consider a more involved approach at determining what their overall tax liability will be. In order to do so, each of us needs to develop an understanding of the new tax laws, and applicably determine how the new laws will affect them.

Take for example, an employee who gets compensated for mileage. In the past, the compensation was likely included on the employee’s W-2, as taxable income. On their tax return, the employee would pick up the mileage compensation as part of their taxable wages, then deduct the mileage as an unreimbursed business expense on Schedule A. Now, however, as a result of the recent tax reform, that deduction for unreimbursed business expenses is no longer available; meaning that the mileage compensation will still be included as taxable income, but there will no longer be an offsetting deduction. If taxpayers aren’t proactive in making sure that they appropriately adjust their withholdings, they could potentially be in for quite a surprise when they file their tax return in April of 2019.

There has a been a lot of curiosity amongst our clients lately; many of them have been asking us how they will fare under the new tax law. It is not necessary, and it might even be unwise, to wait until you file your 2018 tax return to get your answer. The tax reform act certainly did create change. If you pay federal income tax, it will bode you well to consult your tax advisor sooner rather than later; taking a comprehensive look at your new tax environment now can help you plan ahead.

John Massey is a Senior Accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs. He helps individuals and businesses with tax planning preparation and works on compiled and reviewed financial statements for businesses. He can be reached at jmassey@pfbf.com or 873-1603.

Business New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, as we turn the calendar from one from one year to the next, many of us contemplate self-imposed resolutions as a means of improvement. We interpret the dawn of a new year as if it were a clean slate; as we compartmentalize years into chapters, January first provides us with a blank page.

Interestingly enough, most of us start our new chapter in a very similar manner; we resolve to exercise more, to eat less, or perhaps we are going to rid of a bad habit. As business owners, I think we can take our resolutions a step further. Of course, everyone wants to make more money than they did in the previous year, but how?

Similar to your health and wellness resolutions, you need a plan. You need to identify aspects of your business that could improve and then determine how to do so. Proclaiming that your new year’s resolution is to lose weight is merely noise unless you identify specifically what changes need to be made. Think of your business in the same regard; if you want to improve your bottom line in 2018, spend some time studying your income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Calculate your receivables turnover ratio to see how efficiently you are collecting cash, calculate your inventory turnover to learn how long items are sitting on your shelves, take a good look at your expenditures – is your money being spent wisely?

It is the details such as these that together in a conglomerate make up the composition of a company’s prosperity. Businesses can often times find themselves consumed by their top line. The rationalization that increased revenues correlate to increased profits might be true, but then again, it might not. While increases in revenue are obviously important, the money is in the margins.

Consider this: would you rather have $1 million in sales with $900k of correlated expenses? or $500k in sales with $200k of related expenses? The latter might sound less exciting, but you will have another $200k to show for it.

Closing the books at year end provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect on our company’s health. It can be difficult to step back and make an in-depth analysis during the hustle and bustle that occurs throughout the year. As you open a new ledger, I encourage you to invest some time in really looking at the numbers. After you join a gym and reluctantly commit to a new diet, consider how you might clean up your company’s balance sheet or realize better margins on your income statement. As with our personal lives, there is likely something that our businesses can improve on. It might take reflection and even analysis, but positive changes are going to pay off – literally.

Wishing you and your business a prosperous and healthy 2018.

John Massey is a Senior Accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs. He helps individuals and businesses with tax planning preparation and works on compiled and reviewed financial statements for businesses. He can be reached at jmassey@pfbf.com or 873-1603.