Tag Archives: tax return

How Can Life or Career Changes Affect Your Tax Return?

Have you recently changed jobs? Started your own business? Maybe welcomed a child to your family? Well, all of these situations could have tax consequences or benefits, requiring some financial planning.

When changing jobs, there are several things to consider. Did you have a 401(k), 403(b) or another form of retirement plan at your old job? If so, rolling over your retirement plan to your new employer or to an individual retirement account, may provide you with more control over your retirement savings. Also, if you recently relocated for a new job, you may be eligible to deduct moving expenses. In order to qualify, the following three requirements have to be met: your move is closely related to the start date of your new employment, your new job is at least 50 miles from your prior home, and you must have worked full-time, for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months, in the new area where your job is located. If your job relocation satisfies these requirements, you are entitled to deduct reasonable and qualifying moving expenses. Along with considering these additional items and benefits when changing jobs, make sure you receive your W-2 from your previous employer.

Have you recently started a new business or hobby and are trying to figure out how to report the income on your tax return? The first step is to consider whether the activity is in fact a business or a hobby. The key way to differentiate between a hobby and a small business hinges on your profit motive, or lack thereof. If you have a profit motive, and spend a considerable amount of time participating in your new venture, you are likely operating a small business. Unincorporated small businesses generally report income and expense on a Schedule C of form 1040. If your new adventure is really a hobby, income is reported on line 21 “Other income”. Expenses are deductible only if you itemize deductions, and are subject the 2% limitation. In either case, it is important to keep detailed records of your income and expenses.

Finally, and most exciting to me is how a new child can affect your tax situation. If you added a child to your family at any time during the year you qualify for an additional dependency exemption, which phase out for higher income families, for 2017 are $4,050. The addition to the family may also allow you to become eligible for the child tax credit, and credit for child and dependent care expenses. These credits have income limitations, but are helpful when trying to combat the expenses of a new child.

There is a lot to consider during life and career changes, but our experienced accountants at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs are happy to assist you through these tax and financial changes. We want you to be well prepared for the 2017 tax filing season. If we can further assist, please don’t be afraid to stop in at either our Oakland or Bath offices.

Nick Deblois is a Staff Accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs. He works closely with other senior staff members of the firm, honing his talents regarding tax and accounting matters. He can be reached at nick@pfbf.com or 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.

 

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.