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

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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Proprietors and Partners Mistakenly Pay Themselves Illegal W-2 Wages

activity board game connection desk

In our Chicago South Loop Tax Preparation office, we often see sole proprietors and partners who are above the Section 199A thresholds look for W-2 wages as a means to salvage the 20 percent deduction allowed by Section 199A. They also often look enviously at the fringe benefits that are available to employees and not to them as sole proprietors or partners.

To overcome getting shorted on the Section 199A deduction or being denied fringe benefits, some sole proprietors and partners instruct their payroll services to make them W-2 employees. When the payroll services do this, the proprietors and partners believe they are now legitimate employees of their proprietorships and partnerships. Wrong. Totally wrong.

  • The sole proprietor may not be a W-2 employee of his or her sole proprietorship.
  • A partner may not be a W-2 employee of a partnership.
  • Some sole proprietors and partners have had their Certified Professional Employer Organization (CPEO) treat them as employees. Also, wrong!
  • Using a CPEO does not create the possibility of paying a W-2 wage to a partner or a sole proprietor.

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Takeaways

The sole proprietor is not a W-2 employee of the proprietorship. He or she is self-employed and operates under the rules for the self-employed. The partner is not a W-2 employee of the partnership. He or she is a partner and is treated as a partner under the
tax rules. Partners receive remuneration for services as guaranteed payments, which are subject to self employment taxes.

The single-member LLC is a proprietorship unless the member elects treatment as an S or a C corporation. Similarly, a multi member LLC is a partnership unless it elects treatment as an S or a C corporation.

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

How I went to IRS tax jail, aka IRS withholding compliance program.

woman in jail.jpg

Author: Trudy M. Howard

Have you ever gotten away with something, and found yourself doing it again? Did you keep doing it thinking that you would never get caught, or if you did get caught, you could talk your way out of it? Well that was also me when it came to going exempt on my Federal taxes.

When I was 25 I started working for a major phone company, and I was earning about $70,000 per year. $70,000 wasn’t a shabby salary for a 25 year old single mother, but when the Federal taxes were deducted, I felt as if I was paying more in taxes than I was earning. With the increase in salary I no longer qualified for the earned income tax credit, I didn’t qualify for daycare assistance programs, and I was kicked out of the welfare office when I asked for medical help or food stamps! So what was a girl to do when she felt that she needed more money to survive? Was I supposed to create a budget and stick to it? Should I have stopped dining out? Maybe I should have picked up a side business (which would have created tax planning opportunities) and supplemented my income? While all of these things sound like viable, and reasonable options, 25 year old Trudy was not reasonable, and she certainly wasn’t going to discipline herself to stick to a budget. While discussing my financial crisis (don’t judge me) with a friend, she told me about a “magical thing” called “going exempt from Federal income tax.”
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In order to stop the government from taking $300 and $400 out of my paychecks, “all I had to do (which is the opening statement for all bad ideas)” was write exempt on my W4, hand the form to my employer, and magically, all of the deductions would stop. The first time that I went exempt I was afraid. Was the IRS going to come after me? Was my job going to fire me for not paying taxes? Would I owe the IRS a gazillion dollars? To my surprise (and eventual demise) none of these things happened. In fact, nothing happened, life continued on, and I was happy as jay bird; that is until tax time arrived.

In June of 2002 I received my first IRS tax bill (notice CP51A). I ignored it. More letters came; I ignored them. Certified letters came; I refused to pick them up. The only letter that caught my attention was the CP504 intent to levy, and it only caught my attention because it mentioned the word assets. Me being me, I waited until the last minute to contact the IRS, and after my bank account was levied, I finally understood that when the IRS sends letters, it’s best to call them immediately. One would think that the levy would have changed my ways, but nope! All the levy did was teach me to get tax debt help, and work out a payment plan with the IRS.

Schedule-button-nbor an with the IRS click here to call us 1-855-743-5765.

After resolving my tax debt issues, I began the crazy cycle of racking up tax debt, and asking for an installment plan. 10 years into this cycle I finally reached the mother of all IRS agents, and she told me “be careful, because an IRS agents can see that you keep racking up debt, and that you don’t have enough withholding. When you don’t have enough withholdings, the IRS can force you to increase your withholding.” My internal response was “girl bye… I’ve been doing this for years, run the payment plan and shut up” but my external response was “Really they can do that? I always figured that I would settle up with the IRS at the end of the year. I’ll do better this year, I promise.” Little did I know the gig was up, and I was on my way to IRS tax jail.

Merriam Webster defines prison as: “a state of confinement or captivity, or  a place of confinement especially for lawbreakers.” While IRS tax jail is not a physical jail with walls, those that have been placed into the IRS withholding compliance program can tell you that it certainly feels like jail! Once the taxpayer becomes a lawbreaker (by not paying their taxes as they go), they are eventually placed into the IRS withholding compliance program (aka IRS tax jail), and held captive for a minimum of 3 years. During this 3 year period the IRS states that: “your employer must withhold income tax from your wages as if you’re single with zero allowances.”

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To illustrate, in 2019, if a person is earning $70,000 (and there were thrown into IRS tax jail aka withholding compliance program), they would have $400.87 withheld from each paycheck to cover their Federal income taxes. In addition to the Federal tax deduction, every paycheck would also have deductions for Social Security ($166.92), Medicare ($39.04), and state taxes ( I live in Illinois, and in IL the tax would be $133.27. After taxes, the taxpayer would be left with a net pay of $1,952.21, not including deductions for health insurance, dental, vision, life insurance, disability, union dues, and so on. So if the IRS tax jail isn’t physical, how is one cast into IRS tax jail? The IRS sends tax payers to IRS tax Jail by sending letter 2800C to the taxpayers employer. 

Once your employer receives letter 2800C per IRS.gov: “within 60 days the employer must “begin withholding income tax from this employee’s wages based on a withholding rate (or marital status) single, and withholding allowances of 0.” No amount of pleading, threatening, or arguing with your employer will change this. If you switch employers, the IRS will find you. The only thing that you can do is contact the IRS yourself (for the DIY crowd), or you can work with a professional tax debt resolution firm to negotiate with the IRS on your behalf.. Depending on your number of dependents, and marital status, the IRS may show you some mercy. There is always the option of doing nothing, and if you choose to do nothing, you can expect your lock in rate to begin within 60 days, and you will remain in IRS tax jail for a minimum of 3 years.

As with every good story, there is always a silver lining. If during your 3 year bid, you remain a good little taxpayer (by paying your taxes & staying in tax compliance) the warden can release you from IRS tax jail. 

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

Deduct Your Costs of Sponsoring Sports Teams

woman athletes playing soccer

In our south loop Chicago tax preparation office, when we prepare small business tax returns, we are often asked if a company can deduct the costs of sponsoring a sports team. Have you wondered what it takes to deduct the costs of sponsoring a sports team? What if you play on the team? Could you pay for the team travel expenses?

Revenue Ruling 70-393 states that the monies spent to outfit and support a sports team are similar to monies spent on other methods of advertising; accordingly, you may deduct them as business expenses for federal income tax purposes.

In the Strong case, Strong Construction Co. Inc. advertised its business primarily through either word of mouth or athletic sponsorships. As part of the athletic sponsorships, the corporation paid for the uniforms, logo design, hats, T-shirts, sweatpants, coats, bags, and pants for all players on its sponsored teams (broomball, softball, wrestling, etc.). The court ruled that the expenses were ordinary and necessary business expenses and that Strong could deduct them as advertising or promotion.
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In the Bower case, James Bower sponsored the Lafayette Bower Housing Hustlers basketball team, and he was both an assistant coach and a player. As the Hustlers’ sponsor, Bower paid for the team’s travel, lodging, food, promotions, AAU fees, tournament fees, gym rental, and uniforms. The court noted that Bower’s sponsorship increased his commodity brokerage commissions and generated additional clients; accordingly, the court ruled that Bower’s sponsorship expenses were deductible business expenses.

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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What is the De Minimis safe harbor $2,500 Expensing ($5,000 with AFS)?

adult chill computer connection

It’s a new year, and in preparation for the Chicago small business tax preparation season, you can elect the de minimis safe harbor to expense assets costing $2,500 or less ($5,000 with audited financial statements or something similar).

The term “safe harbor” means that the IRS will accept your expensing of the qualified assets if you properly abided by the rules of the safe harbor.

Here are four benefits of this safe harbor:

  1. Safe harbor expensing is superior to Section 179 expensing because you don’t have the recapture period that can complicate your taxes.
  2. Safe harbor expensing takes depreciation out of the equation.
  3. Safe harbor expensing simplifies your tax and business records because you don’t have the assets cluttering your books.
  4. The safe harbor does not reduce your overall ceiling on Section 179 expensing.

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Here’s how the safe harbor works. Say you are a small business that elects the $2,500 ceiling for safe harbor expensing and you buy two desks costing $2,100 each. On the invoice, you see the quantity “two” and the total cost of $4,200, plus sales tax of $378 and a $200 delivery and setup charge, for a total of $4,778.

Before this safe harbor, you would have capitalized each desk at $2,389 ($4,778 ÷ 2) and then either Section 179 expensed or depreciated it. You would have kept the desks in your depreciation schedules until you disposed of them.

Now, with the safe harbor, you simply expense the desks as office supplies. This makes your tax life much easier.

To benefit from the safe harbor, you and I do a two-step process. It works like this:Schedule-button-nb

Step 1. For safe harbor protection, you must have in place an accounting policy—at the beginning of the tax year—that requires expensing of an amount of your choosing, up to the $2,500 or $5,000 limit. We can help you with this.

Step 2. When we prepare your tax return, Howard Tax Prep LLC make the election on your tax return for you to use safe harbor expensing. This requires that I attach the election statement to your federal tax return and file that tax return by the due date (including extensions).

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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Now that you’ve filed, do you need to tell your employer to withhold more or less income to pay your 2019 taxes?

man holding white paper

Reprinted with changes, edits, & permission by the IRS.

Was your refund lower than expected, or did you have an unexpected tax bill when you filed this year? In our south loop Chicago tax preparation office, we saw a slight decrease in income tax refunds for personal 1040 taxes. On the other hand, many of our Chicago business tax preparation clients saw a decrease in their taxes dues thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. If you are concerned about your tax bill for the 2019 tax year, there are steps that you can take steps to make sure your federal income tax withholding is on the right track for this year.
Checking your withholding at the beginning of the year helps ensure you don’t have too little or too much withheld from your paychecks throughout the year. This is especially
important if you changed your withholding in 2018. A mid-year withholding change in 2018 can have a different full-year impact in 2019. You should also check your withholding any time your personal or financial information changes. Use the Withholding Calculator to help you decide whether you need to change your
withholding.

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Federal taxes operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that you need to pay most of your tax during the year, as you earn the income. Paying too much tax throughout the year will result in a refund while not paying enough can lead to a tax bill, penalties and interest when you file. One way to avoid owing a balance is to correctly calculate and adjust how much tax you should have withheld from your wages. Use the Withholding Calculator to help you decide whether you need to change your withholding.

Another option is to consider making quarterly estimated tax payments. Those who
don’t pay taxes through withholding, or don’t pay enough tax that way, may still use the Withholding Calculator to determine if they have to pay estimated tax quarterly during the year to the IRS. Those who are self-employed generally pay tax this way. See Form
1040-ES, Estimated Taxes for Individuals, for details. Visit IRS.gov/payasyougo to learn more about withholding and to determine if you should be making estimated tax payments. You are in the driver’s seat. Check your withholding today.

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

Owe taxes? What to do when you owe the IRS.

Listen, I’ve been there. You know the place where you’re afraid to open the notice from the IRS because you think they are coming for your right arm and both legs? The place where you KNEW that you should have been paying more through out the year, but you needed your money, so you chose go exempt from Federal taxes? Or how about the place where you thought you were paying enough to the IRS, and to your surprise you wound up with a tax bill! Listen to this quick podcast below by clicking the play button, or listen on iTunes by searching “small biz tax lady.”

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I talk about if you should file, your payment options, and why you need to read your IRS notices. If you have a more complicated case (such as refund taken due to spousal debt, IRS wage garnishments, or a pending levy, please call us immediately at 855-743-5765 or email me directly at thoward@howardtaxprep.com

Have a podcast idea? Send me your suggestions at podcast@howardtaxprep.com or inbox me.