Business Taxes, Family Taxes, General Information, General Tax Topics, Self Employed, signing agent, Small Business, Tax Debt, Tax Deductions, Tax Planning, Tax Reduction, Uncategorized

5 LAST MINUTE YEAR END TAX SAVINGS TRICKS TO INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS DEDUCTIONS

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In our South Loop of Chicago tax preparation office, we often have small business owners looking to reduce their taxable income. In the spirit of the holiday’s we’ve written this article for small business owners with the purpose of you the reader getting the IRS to owe you money.

Of course, the IRS is not likely to cut you a check for this money (although in the right circumstances, that will happen), but you’ll realize the cash when you pay less in taxes.

Here are five powerful business tax deduction strategies that you can easily understand and implement before the end of 2019.

1. Prepay Expenses Using the IRS Safe Harbor

You just have to thank the IRS for its tax-deduction safe harbors.

IRS regulations contain a safe-harbor rule that allows cash-basis taxpayers to prepay and deduct qualifying expenses up to 12 months in advance without challenge, adjustment, or change by the IRS.

Under this safe harbor, your 2019 prepayments cannot go into 2021. This makes sense, because you can prepay only 12 months of qualifying expenses under the safe-harbor rule.

For a cash-basis taxpayer, qualifying expenses include lease payments on business vehicles, rent payments on offices and machinery, and business and malpractice insurance premiums.

Example. You pay $3,000 a month in rent and would like a $36,000 deduction this year. So on Tuesday, December 31, 2019, you mail a rent check for $36,000 to cover all of your 2020 rent. Your landlord does not receive the payment in the mail until Thursday, January 2, 2020. Here are the results:

• You deduct $36,000 in 2019 (the year you paid the money).
• The landlord reports $36,000 in 2020 (the year he received the money).
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You get what you want—the deduction this year. The landlord gets what he wants—next year’s entire rent in advance, eliminating any collection problems while keeping the rent taxable in the year he expects it to be taxable.

Don’t surprise your landlord: if he had received the $36,000 of rent paid in advance in 2019, he would have had to pay taxes on the rent money in tax year 2019.

2. Stop Billing Customers, Clients, and Patients

Here is one rock-solid, time-tested, easy strategy to reduce your taxable income for this year: stop billing your customers, clients, and patients until after December 31, 2019. (We assume here that you or your corporation is on a cash basis and operates on the calendar year.)
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Customers, clients, patients, and insurance companies generally don’t pay until billed. Not billing customers and patients is a time-tested tax-planning strategy that business owners have used successfully for years.

Example. Jim Schafback, a dentist, usually bills his patients and the insurance companies at the end of each week; however, in December, he sends no bills. Instead, he gathers up those bills and mails them the first week of January. Presto! He just postponed paying taxes on his December 2019 income by moving that income to 2020.

3. Buy Office Equipment

With bonus depreciation now at 100 percent along with increased limits for Section 179 expensing, buy your equipment or machinery and place it in service before December 31, and get a deduction for 100 percent of the cost in 2019.

Qualifying bonus depreciation and Section 179 purchases include new and used personal property such as machinery, equipment, computers, desks, chairs, and other furniture (and certain qualifying vehicles).

4. Use Your Credit Cards

If you are a single-member LLC or sole proprietor filing Schedule C for your business, the day you charge a purchase to your business or personal credit card is the day you deduct the expense. Therefore, as a Schedule C taxpayer, you should consider using your credit card for last-minute purchases of office supplies and other business necessities.
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If you operate your business as a corporation, and if the corporation has a credit card in the corporate name, the same rule applies: the date of charge is the date of deduction for the corporation.

But if you operate your business as a corporation and you are the personal owner of the credit card, the corporation must reimburse you if you want the corporation to realize the tax deduction, and that happens on the date of reimbursement. Thus, submit your expense report and have your corporation make its reimbursements to you before midnight on December 31.
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5. Don’t Assume You Are Taking Too Many Deductions

If your business deductions exceed your business income, you have a tax loss for the year. With a few modifications to the loss, tax law calls this a “net operating loss,” or NOL.

If you are just starting your business, you could very possibly have an NOL. You could have a loss year even with an ongoing, successful business.

You used to be able to carry back your NOL two years and get immediate tax refunds from prior years; however, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated this provision. Now, you can only carry your NOL forward, and it can only offset up to 80 percent of your taxable income in any one future year.

What does this all mean? You should never stop documenting your deductions, and you should always claim all your rightful deductions. We have spoken with far too many business owners, especially new owners, who don’t claim all their deductions when those deductions would produce a tax loss.

I trust that you found the five ideas above worthwhile. Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, or need business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office at 855-743-5765. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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Business Taxes, Family Taxes, General Information, General Tax Topics, Self Employed, Small Business, Tax Debt, Tax Deductions, Tax Planning, Tax Reduction, Uncategorized

Know Whether Your Trip Is a Deductible Business Expense

view of airliner wing above the clouds

In our Chicago South Loop Tax preparation office, everyone is getting excited for the holidays. The holidays are a time to give thanks, spend time with family, and reflect on your year. For small business owners, travelling can also create business deductions!  To help you understand business travel, consider this:

You planned a personal trip to Los Angeles, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving on Sunday afternoon.

About a week later, you learn that a vendor you need to meet with is going to be in L.A. when you are. You arrange a dinner on Friday night to finalize negotiations on a large contract.

Can you now deduct 100 percent of your flight expenses to Los Angeles? How about meals?

Trouble. You must have business as your primary purpose for the trip. In general, a business trip can involve two types of business days:
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1. Travel day. You count as business those days you spend traveling in a reasonably direct route to your business destination. (Again, note this is your business not your personal destination.)
2. Presence-required day. If someone requires your presence at a particular place for a specific and bona fide business purpose, this counts as a business day. That “someone” could be any business associate, employee, partner, client, customer, or vendor.

This trip we created for you works like this:

  • Day 1, Friday, is a personal day. (You may deduct the cost of the business meal with the vendor whether you pay for it in total or go Dutch treat.)
  • Day 2, Saturday, is a personal day.
  • Day 3, Sunday, is a personal day.

But let’s say you had this situation: you travel on Friday to meet with the vendor on Saturday and return home on Sunday. Now, you have a deductible trip.

Do I Have to Keep a Tax Diary for My Business Travel?

No, but the combination of the timely records you keep must prove the four elements below:

  1. Amount. The amount of each expenditure for traveling away from home, such as the costs of transportation, lodging, and meals.
  2. Time. Your dates of departure and return, and the number of days on business.
  3. Place. Your travel destination described by city or town.
  4. Business purpose. Your business reason for the travel, or the nature of the business benefit derived or expected to be derived.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have tax debt help questions, need Chicago business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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How Corporations Reduce IRS Audits of Home-Office Deductions

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In our south loop Chicago tax preparation office, we often work with clients that want to reduce their tax bill, without triggering an audit. If you filed your business income and expenses as a proprietor in 2017 and reported $100,000 or more in gross receipts, your chances of IRS audit were 2.4 percent (2017 returns are still open for audit, so the percentage could increase).

Had you reported this income as an S corporation, your chances of audit were only 0.20 percent.

You have probably read that the home-office deduction increases your chances of IRS audit. We’ve read that, too, but we don’t believe it.

Regardless, let’s assume that you’re a little paranoid about audits, and you want to claim the home-office deduction in a way that doesn’t attract the attention of the IRS.

If you operate as a corporation, your home-office deduction does not show on either your personal return or your corporate return if you have the corporation reimburse the office as an employee business expense.
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With reimbursement, the corporation claims the deduction for the expenses it reimburses to you. The corporation probably puts the reimbursement into a category called “office expenses” or something similar. Thus, the home-office deduction as a name or title does not appear in the corporate return.

You receive the reimbursement from the corporation as a reimbursed employee expense. You do not report employee-expense reimbursements as taxable income on your personal return. Thus, you do not identify the home office on your personal return.

Got it? The home-office deduction does not appear under a home-office label on either the corporate or personal tax return as a tax deduction.

If the corporate form of business appeals to you, please call us at 1-855-743-5765 so we can look at your options to see if we should spend some time on your tax planning.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have tax debt help questions, need Chicago business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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Is the Money on My Prepaid Card FDIC-Insured?

FDIC INSURED
To protect your funds, make sure your card is insurable and registered Banks insured by the FDIC offer a wide variety of financial products beyond traditional checking and savings accounts, including prepaid cards.

A prepaid card allows you to use a card to make purchases at stores, withdraw cash from ATMs, or to pay bills online without accessing a bank account or line of credit. Since these cards usually are not linked to a checking or savings account, consumers often ask, “Does the FDIC also insure the funds on my prepaid card?” The answer could be, “Yes,” but there are some important initial issues to understand.

If the FDIC-insured bank that issued the card was to fail, the funds available on your prepaid card may be insurable as long as:

  • your prepaid card is eligible for FDIC deposit insurance coverage,
  • you properly register the card, and
  • specific deposit insurance requirements are met (listed below).

The first step is to determine whether the prepaid card is eligible for FDIC deposit insurance coverage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enacted new rules effective April 1, 2019 (to learn more visit New Protections for Prepaid Accounts), which require financial institutions to provide a disclosure as to whether or not your prepaid card is insurable for those cards linked to an FDIC-insured bank.

While the new disclosure rules make it easier to find information about FDIC insurance coverage for a specific prepaid card, you must also register your card with the card issuer if your card is designed to be insurable, so that the FDIC can identify you as the cardholder in the event the bank fails.

Sometimes a card is issued directly by an FDIC-insured bank and sometimes by a third-party that will simply use a bank to hold prepaid card funds. If the third-party is managing the record-keeping for the prepaid card, the third-party will have the responsibility to provide the FDIC with the information about the owners of the cards and the balance on each prepaid card at the time the bank fails.

The bank’s records for FDIC insurable prepaid cards must meet the following requirements:

The account must be appropriately titled (names the owner or owners of the account) in the bank’s records and indicate that the prepaid account provider is going to be acting as the cardholder’s agent, which could include duties such as transferring funds on your behalf when you make a purchase and keeping track of the balance on your prepaid card as you add or withdraw funds.

If the bank fails, the card issuer as your agent will need to provide the FDIC a list identifying each cardholder and the balance on each card at the time the bank fails.

The contractual agreement among the financial institution, the prepaid card issuer and the cardholders must indicate that the individual cardholders are the owners of the funds.

Assuming you properly register your prepaid card, if the FDIC-insured bank that issued the card was to fail, you as the consumer would be insurable for up to $250,000, subject to aggregation with other similarly owned deposits you may have in the failed bank (for more information visit FDIC deposit insurance).

In addition, having FDIC deposit insurance coverage does not cover certain events, such as if your prepaid card is lost or if someone gains access to your prepaid card and steals the funds. In these situations, there could be other legal options available for you to try to recover your funds, such as those that may be described in your account agreement or provided under state or federal law.

It’s important to note that this information does not apply to gift cards. For information on gift cards, visit Giving or receiving gift cards? Know the terms and avoid surprises.

For more information about prepaid cards and similar products, see the FDIC’s webpage on prepaid accounts at Prepaid Cards and Deposit Insurance Coverage.

For more help or information, go to FDIC.gov or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342). Please send your story ideas or comments to consumeraffairs3@fdic.gov

Business Taxes, General Information, General Tax Topics, Self Employed, Small Business, Tax Debt, Tax Deductions, Tax Planning, Tax Reduction, Uncategorized

Staying Out Of Trouble With “Gigs”

hustle led signage
Photo by Tnarg on Pexels.com

In our Chicago South Loop Tax Preparation office, we often help people with tax bills through our tax debt help services. After seeing so many get into tax trouble with their side gigs, we decided to give some pointers on how to stay out of trouble for those with side gigs.

Let me give you a scenario: You’ve got a great job, and you’re moonlighting as a graphics designer on a freelancer website. All your clients are paying you through PayPal & CashApp, and honestly, you’re cleaning up. An easy extra couple thousand dollars each month. How do you report that income?

Legally, you’re bound to report ANY income you have, but these days, with so many folks doing their side gigs, are you actually reporting it? There’s actually even a darker side to this, though, and it’s nothing really new. Tipped employees – those like servers and bartenders who have for years existed on tips from their customers, have had this challenge for decades. Legally, they, too, are required to report all their income. Do they?
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So what happens when you don’t report all of your income? You could get audited, if you earn over a certain amount the third party vendor can report your income to the IRs, but sometimes, the real place where not reporting your income can trip you up is… when you want FINANCE anything. In many cases, your ability to borrow money is based strongly not only on your repayment history, but also on your income. Guess where the bank or lender gets that information? Your tax returns, especially if you are a W2 employee.

Now, before you go and fall on your sword and claim every dime, understand there are a myriad of ways in which you can mitigate your tax bill even as you claim every dime you make. It could be by forming a S-corp, funding a retirement account, or shifting your income, starting a nonprofit, trust, or any one of a number of ways. As a result, though, especially if you create a so-called “pass-through” entity, you’ll have the ability to claim the income you’re legally responsible for AND make use of the deductions and protections afforded to these types of entities.

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More importantly, it’s not expensive to set these up and the bookkeeping and tax preparation is very simple in such a small business. In the end, you’ll have the best of both worlds.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, or need business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office at 855-743-5765. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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HUGE WIN FOR NOTARY SIGNING AGENTS

women s in gray turtleneck sweater pointing white contract paper

Author Trudy M. Howard

In our South Loop Chicago Tax Preparation office, Howard Tax Prep LLC works with entrepreneurs from various industries; however, there are 2 industries that give entrepreneurs a built in self-employment tax deduction. To take advantage of built in self employment tax reductions, one must be employed as a minister, or a notary. While this article will deal with notary signing agents, the same concept can also be applied to ministers.

Per IRS publication 17: “Notary public. Report payments for these services on Schedule C (Form 1040) or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040). These payments aren’t subject to self-employment tax.” ees received for services performed as a notary public. Also, the instructions for IRS schedule SE reads: “if you had no other income subject to SE tax, enter “Exempt—Notary” on Schedule 4 (Form 1040), line 57. Don’t file Schedule SE.”

So how do you know what part of your loan signing agent payments are for notary services only? It’s simple, you count the # of stamps that you made, and exclude your travel, printing, and shipping/faxing cost. For example, let’s say that you have a 30 page loan document, and you charge $80 for the the total signing, $30 of which is strictly for the notary stamps. Using the above example, if you properly DOCUMENT your job, you can exclude the $30 (the charge for each stamp) from self-employment taxes (the 15.3% Medicare & Social Security taxes aka FICA).

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Although I’m pretty sure that you probably don’t want to do anymore documentation, the IRS requires documentation for deductions, and this is a HUGE deduction! Don’t let the lack of documentation, or lack of tax preparers knowledge keep you from taking advantage of the self employment tax reduction for notaries/signing agents (& ministers). While most tax reduction strategies require the use entities, retirement vehicles, and state laws, this simple yet effective tax deduction only requires you to itemize your notary fees, & document your work. Below, please find a basic example of the potential savings.

$80,000 Signing agent income.
-$20,000 expenses
$60,000 in taxable income.
$60,000 in taxable for self-employment taxes.
Self-employment taxes on $60,00=$8,478
Income taxes assuming single person no children=$4,013  TOTAL TAX BILL=$12,491

$80,000 Signing agent income.
-$20,000 expenses
$60,000 in taxable income.
$30,000 taxable income for self-employment taxes
Self-employment taxes on $30,000=$4,239 EASY TAX SAVINGS OF $4,239.
Income taxes assuming single person no children=$4,013. TOTAL TAX BILL=$8,252

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have tax debt help questions, need Chicago business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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Impact of Death, Retirement, & Disability on the 179 Tax Deduction

hospital work process

What tax effect would death, retirement, or disability have on you or your business?

Here’s an easy example to illustrate.

Let’s say that in 2017, you purchased (for business use) a pickup truck with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 6,000 pounds. Asserting that you use the pickup 100 percent for business, you expensed the entire $55,000 cost.

What happens to that $55,000 expensed amount if you die, retire, or become disabled before the end of the vehicle’s five-year depreciation period?

Death

If your heirs are not going to pay estate taxes, your death is about as good as it gets. Here’s why:

  • You get to keep your Section 179 deduction. (It goes to the grave with you.)
  • Your pickup truck gets marked up to fair market value. (Remember, you expensed it to zero, but now at your death, the fair market value is the new basis to your heir or heirs.)

Example. Using Section 179, you expensed the entire cost of your $55,000 pickup truck. You die. Your daughter Amy inherits the pickup at its fair market value, which is now $31,000, and sells it immediately for $31,000. Here are the results:

  • You get to keep your Section 179 deduction—no recapture applies.
  • Amy pays zero tax on her sale of the pickup truck.
  • Your estate includes the $31,000 fair market value of the pickup, and if your estate is less than $11.4 million, your estate pays no estate taxes.

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Disability

This is ugly. If you become disabled and you allow your business use of the pickup to fall to 50 percent or below during its five-year depreciable life, you must recapture and pay taxes on the excess deductions generated by the Section 179 deduction.

To make matters worse, you must use straight-line depreciation in making the excess-deduction calculation.

Retirement

With retirement, you have exactly the same problem as you would have if you became disabled. In fact, with retirement, you disable your business involvement, and that makes your pickup truck fail the more-than-50-percent-business-use test, resulting in recapture of the excess benefit over straight-line depreciation.

Takeaways

You need to consider what happens should you become disabled, or retire, or die.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have tax debt help questions, need Chicago business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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