Category Archives: Tax Refund

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.

 

THE MANY FACES OF TAXABLE INCOME: GAMBLING & LOTTERY WINNINGS

Code Section 61 defines gross income, “except as otherwise provided,…gross income means all income from whatever source derived,” Regulation 1.61-1 further states that Gains from wagering transactions are included in gross income.

I suspect that most households participate in one way or another in the gambling industry. We purchase lottery tickets, enjoy an afternoon at the casino, a day at the race track, a night out for beano or maybe a little fantasy football. When we have a lucky day, how should the winnings be reported on a tax return?

Like much of the Code, gambling income and loss deductions are generally misunderstood. Gambling gain is defined as winnings less the cost of the winning bet. Gain transactions are included on line 21 on the front page of the 1040 and add to adjusted gross income. Substantiated gambling losses however, are allowed only to the extent of gambling gain transactions and must be reported on Schedule A. If you do not itemized deductions there is no benefit realized from the loss deduction.

What does the term gain “transactions” mean? I know, you all think that you learned the term in grade school; one bet is one transaction, right? Fortunately, that is not always the case. When it comes to a horse race or the lottery, a transaction is a single bet. It is not so clear when it comes to one hand of a poker game or one pull of a slot machine lever. Rather than define a transaction as a single pull of the lever, the definition is broadened to include all pulls until the winnings or tokens are cashed out for the “session”. Major relief, you can net gains and losses during a session, but what the heck is a session?

Notice 2015-21 helps gamblers better understand. The Notice takes no less than eight pages and seven examples to define a “session” of play. The abridged version is this: A session of play begins with the first wager of the day and ends with the last wager on the same type of game but not later than the end of the calendar day. Winning sessions are reported as gross income while losing sessions are deducted on schedule A.

A weekend of winning $20,000 on Saturday followed by losses of $20,000 on Sunday (two separate sessions), lead to increased gross income of the entire $20,000 with a deduction of $20,000 on Schedule A. Who cares? Well you might if you collect Social Security, receive advanced premium credits or take other deductions which might be limited when adjusted gross income exceeds certain thresholds.

Who would ever imagine that a breakeven weekend at the casino could cost thousands of dollars in income tax? Quit while you’re ahead. All the best gamblers do.

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

WHO SHOULD PREPARE MY TAXES?

If you read my last blog on Getting Organized for Tax Time,  you remember that over 150,000,000 Americans will file a tax return this year. Tax preparers and software vendors will dominate advertising space over the next few months. They want to convince you that using their product or service will net you the largest refund, or make filing your taxes easy. Recent ads suggest that you would have to be an idiot to not be able to figure out how to file your return. To top it off, most products even advertise Free filing.

To get a better feel for “Free” tax filing, I logged on to a number of online tax services and found that “Free” is only for the very simplest of returns 1040EZ/A. Once on their website you generally find that they offer other, not so free, products that “Maximize” deductions or guarantee accuracy. (Understand that they guarantee the accuracy of the calculations that their software provides and not the accuracy of your input.) Many online products offer audit defense insurance at a price that is just as expensive as the tax filing fee. I suggest that you weigh your risk of audit and the likelihood that changes could be made against the additional cost of defense insurance before clicking that box.

If after preparing your returns online you are still anxious, don’t feel alone. Each year I have a handful of clients who ask me to check over their self-filed returns. The majority need some tweaking, not because the people are not smart but because they do not understand the tax code and do not know what the outcome should look like. They check a box here or there and click “Next” without really understanding the underlying tax code. If this fits your description, I suggest that you schedule an appointment with a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) or professional tax preparer.

By professional, I mean someone who is credentialed as an Attorney, CPA or EA. These people have passed rigorous exams to practice before the IRS and have annual education requirements to give them a better understanding of the tax code. Never engage a person to prepare your return who guarantees you a refund or who is not willing to sign it.

How do you find a professional that will be a good fit for you? Do a little homework before scheduling an appointment; visit a few websites, ask your attorney, banker or investment advisor who they suggest. Finally, set up an appointment to make sure that the relationship will be a good fit for you. A good preparer should have years of experience with your personal situation and be willing to give you an estimate of their fees before you make a commitment.

A good professional understands your personal situation and the tax code, and should be able to help you to pay the lowest amount of tax allowed under the law without sleepless nights worrying about the IRS.

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 207-873-1603.

WHAT DO SUPER BOWL SUNDAY AND TAX RETURNS HAVE IN COMMON?

Other than the time of year they occur, the one shining answer is Fantasy Football Leagues. The popularity of these leagues have forced the IRS and Certified Public Accountants all over the United States to begin asking the question: Are my winnings from these online leagues taxable?

What is Fantasy Football?

Fantasy Football is defined to work in such a way that, according to the NFL, “You decide what type of league you want to participate in, acquire a roster of players (either through a draft or through auto pick assignment), then set your lineup each week during the season and watch as touchdowns, field goals, yards gained, sacks, interceptions and much, much more generate fantasy points for or against your team. Whether you win or lose and climb or fall on the leader board all depends on how well you maximize the talent on your roster each week.”

How Does This Affect My Taxes?

Just like any other sort of income, a determination must be made as to the taxability of such income. Unfortunately, the IRS has not ruled specifically on the treatment of Fantasy Football winnings, but there are options that fall under the treatment of online game-playing tournaments (IRS Letter Ruling 200532025).

What Are The Options?

There are three methods defined by the above mentioned IRS letter ruling and they are as follows:

Option #1: The Gross Method: This method would require the league administrator to report total winnings for the year on a form 1099-MISC when the player wins more than $600.

Option #2: The Net Method: This method requires everything from the Gross Method, but then subtracts any entrance fees paid for the winning contests only, creating a net amount that would be reported on the 1099-MISC. if over $600.

Option #3: The Cumulative Net Method: Taking it one step further from the net method, this method allows all entrance fees to be deducted from the winnings, regardless of winning that contest. If this amount is still over the $600, it will be reported on form 1099-MISC.
What Should You Do Next?

If you feel that this applies to your Fantasy Football League activities, please give Jessica Marin, CPA a call at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs and we will help you determine the best way to report on your tax return.

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.