Category Archives: Business Planning

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.

Business Owners: On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

The start of the New Year marks the beginning of the IRS  informational reporting season that will keep most business owner’s heads spinning. None are overbearing or difficult unless, of course, you don’t get them right the first time. Failure to correctly file W-2 and 1099 forms could get 2017 off to a not-so-happy start.

Wage reporting statements:

W-2 forms must be furnished to employees and filed with the Social Security Administration no later than January 31, 2017. It is possible to request a 30 day extension by submitting Form 8809. If errors are made with the initial filing, W-2c forms can be used to correct them. My advice is to work with your tax professional to make sure that you get them right the first time.

The IRS list the most common mistakes such as omitting decimal points and cents, using a font that is too small or large, (12-point Courier font is recommend), and incorrectly checking the “Retirement plan” box.

My experience suggests that a more careful look into the numbers that make up taxable wages will save you both time and money. Here are our top suggestions to correctly file W-2 forms:

    • Incorporated businesses filing form 1120S are required to include fringe benefits into > 2% shareholder’s taxable income. Fringes include: health insurance, HSA plans, and personal use of company owned vehicles. You should contact your payroll provider to make sure they have the information needed.
    • Employee business expense reimbursements made under an accountable plan are generally not required to be included on form W-2. Payments made as part of a non-accountable plan must be reported as taxable wages. Be sure to communicate any reimbursement plans to your payroll and tax providers as the substantiation requirement are very strict.
    • Employers Earned Income Credit notice. All employers must notify employees who have no income tax withheld that they may be able to claim an income tax refund as a result of the Earned Income Credit (EIC)

Penalties for failure to correctly file W-2 forms by the due date can range from $50 to $260 per W-2.

Informational returns:

Warning, this is not for the faint of heart! There are over 30 informational returns that a business might be required to be file including payments for: interest, dividends and rents. Reporting is also required for payments to: foreign persons, crew members of fishing boats, and attorneys.

1099 MISC Forms that report nonemployee compensation are required to be filed for all non-incorporated service providers, not considered to be employees, who have been paid more than $600.

Many business owners consider these filings as trivial and not worth the effort. Sound familiar? Please heed my warning, these informational returns are essential to the U.S. Treasury that failure to correctly file them can and carry penalties ranging from $50-260 per informational return. Small Business Owners do have the special privilege of having the penalty capped at $1,064,000 per year.

As you look to start 2017 on the right foot, I suggest that you take the time to meet with your tax professional and payroll provider to make sure that your informational returns are filed right the first time.

About the Author: Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland. He can be reached at jboulette@pfbf.com or 371-8002.

 

Getting Organized for Tax Time

“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin.

Though Mr. Franklin understood clearly that paying taxes was a certainty, he could not have imagined just how complex tax filing would become.  The U.S. tax code is a daunting 75,000 pages and I suspect that the 150,000,000 Americans that file tax returns rely heavily on professional preparers or tax preparation software to get it right.

This year we know with certainty that April 19th will mark the end of tax season.  That is correct, April 19th for Maine and Massachusetts residents.  April 15th falls on a Friday which is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in DC.  Monday, April 18th is Patriots’ Day, with holiday status in Maine and Massachusetts, so you procrastinators get an extra four days to file.

I know that it is early February, but what else have you to do on these cold dark nights other than to gather your tax information?  I recommend that you get started this weekend.  Begin by looking over last year’s return or tax organizer.  If you are like 80,000,000 Americans and have a professional preparer, make some notes for him/her on any changes that that might have taken place during the year.  Be sure to note, address changes, marriage or divorce, kids going off to college, job changes, real estate sales or home improvements, to name a few.  If you have provided bank account information for direct deposit or automatic tax payment, be sure to communicate any changes in banking information.  Remember, your tax professional may have a great understanding of the code but how it is applied can change, if your personal circumstances change.

Finally, it is important to organize your information.  Sometimes the most challenging part is to get clients to open their mail.  All of those envelopes stamped Important Tax Information should be opened and reviewed for accuracy.  Round up the W-2s, 1099s, Social Security statements, health care forms, college tuition information and mortgage interest.  Review your checking account for charitable contributions, estimated tax payments, excise taxes and medical expenses.  If you squirreled this important information to an ultra-safe place but can’t remember where that place is, most tax forms are readily available on line.

For many the real challenge of Tax Time is just facing the fact that preparing them is inevitable and best done early. Regardless of how well versed your tax professional is, it is not possible for them to correctly prepare your return unless you provide all of the necessary information.  Thus, I encourage you to get organized and start today.

Jamie Boulette has 30 years of tax experience and is the Managing Director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs (PFBF CPAs) with locations in Oakland and Bath.

Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act 2015 – Its effect on the Timber and Wood Products Industries.

Kudos to congress for passing legislation and protecting the timber industry from a bevy of tax increases.  Importantly, the Act extends, and in some cases makes permanent, many provisions that will allow businesses more tax savings opportunities.

The PATH act, signed by the President on December 18, makes tax planning considerably easier and grants a few new tax breaks that will greatly enhance industry write-offs.

Paul Ryan R-Wis suggests “…we are ending Washington’s days of extending tax policies one year at a time.”  Let’s hope Mr. Ryan’s words are true.

EXTENDERS IMPACTING THE TIMBER HARVESTING & WOOD PRODUCTS INDUSTRIES

Code Sec. 179: Expensing

The Act makes permanent an annual expensing limit of $500,000 with an overall investment limit of $2,000,000 (both amounts are now indexed for inflation).  The new law also adds increased expensing of qualified leasehold improvement property.

Bonus Depreciation

The Act extends Bonus Depreciation for all new equipment placed in service through 2019.  The percentage of allowed bonus is reduced from 50% through 2017 to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019.  After 2015, Bonus Depreciation will include qualified improvement property without regard to whether the property is subject to a lease or if it is placed in service more than 3 years after the date that the building was first placed in service.  Also, the Act included language that eliminates AMT adjustments for assets that are elected out of Bonus Depreciation placed in service after 2015.

Combined with the enhanced repair regulations, the above expensing provisions will significantly increase tax savings for our Timber Harvesting and Wood Products clients.

Timber Gains

C corporations are subject to a reduced tax rate of 23.8% for qualified timber gains.  Qualified timber gains means net gain described in Code Sec. 631(a&b) for the year, taking into account only trees held more than 15 years.

Research Credit is permanently extended, and for eligible small businesses the credit may be claimed against alternative minimum tax.  Qualified small business may even claim the credit against FICA tax liabilities.

S-Corp recognition period for Built-In Gains Tax is permanently extended.  The recognition period is now 5 years.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit Extended and Expanded.

The WOTC allows employers who hire targeted individuals to receive a credit against income tax for the first year wages, up to $6,000 per employee.  The credit also applies to employers who hire qualified long-term unemployed individuals (40% of the first $6,000 of wages).  The Act extends the WOTC so that it applies to eligible veterans and non-veterans who begin work by Dec. 31, 2019.  In light of recent mill closures, we might expect to see more people eligible for the WOTC.

If you have questions about how these changes will impact your business, please do not hesitate to call us at, 207-873-1603.