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Small Business Update: Payroll Tax Deferral
On August 8, 2020, the President issued a Memorandum allowing employers to defer withholding and payment of an employee's portion of the Social Security tax (i.e., the 6.2% FICA portion of the federal payroll tax on employees). Medicare taxes, however, are not covered. The payroll tax deferral is effective starting September 1, 2020, and also applies to the employee portion of the Railroad Retirement Act Tier 1 tax. While employers are allowed to defer the withholding and payment of the payroll taxes on employees' applicable wages, they are not required to do so.
Let's take a look at how this affects employers and employees:
Applicable wages refer to wages paid to employees during the period September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. The payroll tax deferral only applies to an employee's taxable wages that are less than $4,000 during a bi-weekly pay period (approximately $104,000 per year) or the equivalent threshold amount with respect to other pay periods.
An employee earning $50,000 a year will owe approximately $1,073 in deferred taxes next year while one making $104,000 will owe $2,232.
No deferral is available for any payment to an employee of taxable wages of $4,000 or above for a bi-weekly pay period.
The determination of applicable wages is made on a pay period-by-pay period basis. For example, if the amount of wages or compensation payable to an employee for the pay period is less than the corresponding pay period threshold amount, then that amount is considered applicable wages for the pay period, and the relief applies - irrespective of the amount of wages or compensation paid to the employee for other pay periods.
Payment of Deferred Applicable Taxes
The IRS has issued a revised Form 941 for the second quarter of 2020, Form 941-X, Adjusted Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return or Claim for Refund that adds a line to reflect any payroll tax deferrals. If an employer chooses not to defer the FICA portion of an employee's wages (i.e., the taxes are withheld as they normally are), payment of any applicable payroll taxes is required as it normally is.
Unless Congress authorizes forgiveness for these tax liabilities, employers deferring payroll tax obligations must withhold and pay the total applicable taxes between January 1, 2021, and April 30, 2021. Interest, penalties, and additions to tax do not begin to accrue until May 1, 2021. This means that employees could, in effect, have double the deduction taken from their paychecks next year to pay back the deferred portion of tax.
Additional information regarding payroll tax deferral is likely forthcoming, but if you have any questions about payroll tax deferment right now, please don't hesitate to call.
It's Never Too Early to Check Tax Withholding
While it probably seems like tax season just ended, it is never too early to do a "Paycheck Checkup" to make sure the right amount of tax is withheld from earnings - and avoid a tax surprise next year when filing your 2020 tax return. As a reminder, because income taxes operate as a pay-as-you-go system, taxpayers are required by law to pay most of their tax as income is received.
Income tax withholding is generally based on the worker's expected filing status and standard deduction. The Tax Withholding Estimator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help taxpayers determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. It allows workers, retirees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers to enter their information using a clear, step-by-step method that helps them determine if there is a need to adjust their withholding and submit a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Certificate, to their employer.
Who Should Check Income Tax Withholding
People who should check their withholding include anyone who:
When To Do a Paycheck Check-Up
Taxpayers should check their withholding annually and when life changes occur, such as marriage, childbirth, adoption, and buying a home. The IRS recommends anyone who changed their withholding this year or received a tax bill after they filed their 2019 return should do a Paycheck Checkup.
By law, unemployment compensation is taxable and must be reported on a 2020 federal income tax return. Taxable benefits include any of the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted this spring.
Millions of Americans currently receiving unemployment compensation (and for many individuals, an extra $600 in addition to regular unemployment benefits) may not realize that unemployment benefits are considered taxable income by the IRS and that tax should be withheld now to avoid owing taxes on this income when filing a federal income tax return next year.
Withholding is voluntary; however, federal law allows any recipient to choose to have a flat 10 percent withheld from their benefits to cover part or all of their tax liability. To do that, fill out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request (PDF), and give it to the agency paying the benefits. Do not send it to the IRS. If the payor has its own withholding request form, use that form instead.
There are a number of different types of payments that taxpayers should check their withholding on including:
Recipients who return to work before the end of the year can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they are having enough tax taken out of their pay.
In January 2021, unemployment benefit recipients should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (PDF) from the agency paying the benefits. The form will show the amount of unemployment compensation they received during 2020 in Box 1, and any federal income tax withheld in Box 4. Taxpayers report this information, along with their W-2 income, on their 2020 federal tax return.
Paying Estimated Taxes
Taxpayers with a substantial portion of their income not subject to withholding − the self-employed, investors, retirees, those with interest, dividends, capital gains, alimony, and rental income − often need to pay quarterly installments of estimated tax.
Recipients of unemployment compensation that don't choose withholding - or realize that the amount withheld is not enough - can also make quarterly estimated tax payments. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on September 15, 2020, and January 15, 2021, respectively.
Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, includes instructions to help taxpayers figure their estimated taxes. They can also visit IRS.gov/payments to pay electronically. IRS offers two free electronic payment options where taxpayers can schedule their estimated federal tax payments up to 30 days in advance with IRS Direct Pay or up to 365 days in advance with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Financial transactions, especially those incurred late in the year, can often have an unexpected tax impact. Examples include year-end and holiday bonuses, stock dividends, capital gain distributions from mutual funds and stocks, bonds, virtual currency, real estate or other property sold at a profit.
Don't hesitate to contact the office if you need assistance figuring the correct withholding amount or have any questions about your tax situation.
Preparing for a Successful Retirement
As you approach retirement, it's vital that you pay attention to several important financial matters to ensure a smooth transition. Here are five of them:
1. Health Insurance
Are you among the lucky few who will continue to be covered after retirement? If not, then you'll need to replace your health coverage.
If you will be eligible for Medicare at the time of your retirement, then you may want to start checking into "Medigap" coverage. Original Medicare pays for much, but not all, of the cost for covered health care services and supplies. Medigap is Medicare Supplement Insurance that helps fill "gaps" in and is sold by private companies to individuals age 65 and older that covers medical expenses not covered or only partially covered by Medicare.
2. Other Insurance
Once you retire, and depending on individual circumstances, you may need to replace employer-provided life insurance with extra coverage. You should also consider purchasing long-term health care insurance in case of a lengthy nursing home stay in the future. Premiums for qualified long-term care insurance policies are tax deductible to the extent that they, along with other unreimbursed medical expenses (including Medicare premiums), exceed 10 percent of the insured's adjusted gross income in 2020.
3. Social Security
Decide whether you want to take early Social Security benefits if you're retiring before your full retirement age, which is currently 66 years of age for people born between 1943 and 1954 and age 67 for those born after 1960. The years in between are prorated accordingly. If you choose to retire as early as age 62, doing so may result in a reduction of as much as 30 percent of your full benefits. Conversely, starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits.
4. Pension Plan or 401(k) Retirement Plan Payout
You should plan well in advance how you'll take the payout from your pension plan or 401(k) plan. For example, will you transfer the funds to a conventional or Roth IRA? How will the funds be invested?
If you're planning a move to another state or country, make sure that you fully explore the financial ramifications of living there before you move. Cost of living as well as rates of taxation can vary significantly from one region of the country to another.
If you have any questions or need assistance planning for a smooth transition into retirement, please call the office.
Tax Considerations When Hiring Household Help
If you employ someone to work for you around your house, it is important to consider the tax implications of this type of arrangement. While many people disregard the need to pay taxes on household employees, they do so at the risk of paying stiff tax penalties down the road.
Household Employee Defined
If a worker is your employee, it does not matter whether the work is full-time or part-time or that you hired the worker through an agency or from a list provided by an agency or association. It also does not matter whether you pay the worker on an hourly, daily or weekly basis or by the job.
If the worker controls how the work is done, the worker is not your employee but is self-employed. A self-employed worker usually provides his or her own tools and offers services to the general public in an independent business.
Also, if an agency provides the worker and controls what work is done and how it is done, the worker is not your employee.
USCIS Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification
When you hire a household employee to work for you on a regular basis, they must complete USCIS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. It is your responsibility to verify that the employee is either a U.S. citizen or an alien who can legally work. Once this is determined, you then complete the employer part of the form.
It is unlawful for you to knowingly hire or continue to employ a person who cannot legally work in the United States. Keep the completed form for your records. Do not return the form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you have a household employee, you may need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, or you may need to pay federal unemployment tax or both. If you pay cash wages of $2,200 or more in 2020 to any one household employee, then you will need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Also, if you pay total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2019 or 2020 to household employees, you are also required to pay federal unemployment tax.
If neither of these two contingencies applies, you do not need to pay any federal unemployment taxes; however, you may still need to pay state unemployment taxes. Please contact the office if you're not sure whether you need to pay state unemployment tax for your household employee. A tax professional will help you figure out whether you need to pay or collect other state employment taxes or carry workers' compensation insurance.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
Social Security taxes pays for old-age, survivor, and disability benefits for workers and their families. The Medicare tax pays for hospital insurance. Both you and your household employee may owe Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your share is 7.65 percent (6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax) of the employee's Social Security and Medicare wages. Your employee's share is 6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax.
You are responsible for payment of your employee's share of the taxes as well as your own. You can either withhold your employee's share from the employee's wages or pay it from your own funds.
Do not count wages you pay to any of the following individuals as Social Security and Medicare wages:
Exception. You should count wages to your parent if they are caring for your child and your child lives with you and is either under age 18 or has a physical or mental condition that requires the personal care of an adult and you are divorced and have not remarried, or you are a widow or widower, or you are married to and living with a person whose physical or mental condition prevents him or her from caring for your child.
Maximum Taxable Earnings. If your employee's Social Security and Medicare wages reach $137,700 in 2020, then do not count any wages you pay that employee during the rest of the year as Social Security wages to figure Social Security tax. You should, however, continue to count the employee's cash wages as Medicare wages to figure Medicare tax. Meals provided at your home for your convenience and lodging provided at your home for your convenience and as a condition of employment are not counted as wages
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
As you can see, tax rules for hiring household employees are complex; therefore, professional tax guidance is highly recommended. This is definitely an area where it's better to be safe than sorry. If you have any questions at all, please contact the office to set up a consultation.
Tax Tips for Workers in the Gig Economy
The gig economy, also called sharing or access economy, is defined by activities where taxpayers earn income providing on-demand work, services, or goods. This type of work is often carried out via digital platforms such as an app or website. There are many types of sharing economy businesses including two of the most popular ones: ride-sharing, Uber and Lyft, for example, home rentals such as Airbnb, and TaskRabbit.
If taxpayers use one of the many online platforms to rent a spare bedroom, provide car rides or other goods or services, they may be part of the sharing or gig worker economy. If so, there are several things taxpayers should keep in mind.
Income is Taxable
Income from these sources is taxable, regardless of whether an individual receives information returns. This is true even if the work is full-time, part-time, or a side job or if an individual is paid in cash or if an information return like a Form 1099 or Form W2 is issued to the gig worker. Taxpayers may also be required to make quarterly estimated income tax payments and pay their share of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid taxes.
Special Rules for Renting Out Your Home
Special rules generally apply if a taxpayer rents out his home, apartment, or other dwelling but also lives in it during the year - this residential rental income may be taxable. For more information about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes). Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant Tool, Is My Residential Rental Income Taxable, and/or Are My Expenses Deductible? to determine if their residential rental income is taxable.
Worker Classification: Employee or Independent Contractor
While providing gig economy services, the taxpayer must be correctly classified. This means the business or the taxpayer must determine whether the individual providing the services is an employee or an independent contractor. Taxpayers can check out the worker classification page on IRS.gov to determine how they are classified.
This is important because some gig workers may be classified as independent contractors and may be able to deduct business expenses, depending on tax limits and rules. Taxpayers need to keep records of their business expenses. For example, a taxpayer who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, which is 57.5 cents per mile for 2020.
Paying Taxes on Gig Income
Since income from the gig economy is taxable, it's important that taxpayers remember to pay the right amount of taxes throughout the year to avoid owing when they file. An employer typically withholds income taxes from their employees' pay to help cover income taxes their employees owe. However, gig economy workers who are not considered employees must pay their taxes. There are two ways to do this:
If you have any questions about the sharing economy and your taxes, help is just a phone call away.
IRS Form 1040-X Now Available for E-Filing
Form 1040-X has been one of the last major individual tax forms that still needed to be paper-filed, but now taxpayers can quickly correct previously filed tax returns by submitting Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return electronically using commercial tax-filing software.
Approximately 3 million Forms 1040-X are filed by taxpayers each year and taxpayers must mail a completed Form 1040-X to the IRS for processing. The new electronic option, however, allows the IRS to receive amended returns faster while minimizing errors normally associated with manually completing the form. The process is also simplified because the tax-filing software allows users to input their data in a question-answer format. The new form also makes it easier for IRS employees to answer taxpayer questions since the data is entered electronically and submitted to the agency almost simultaneously.
Currently, only tax year 2019 Forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically, but additional improvements are planned for the future. Taxpayers still have the option to submit a paper version of the Form 1040-X and should follow the instructions for preparing and submitting the paper form.
As always, don't hesitate to call if you have any questions.
The Home Office Deduction
With more people working from home than ever before, taxpayers may be wondering if they can claim a home office deduction when they file their 2020 tax return next year. The short answer is that self-employed taxpayers who use their home for business may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of it whether they rent or own their home. If you are an employee, however, you are not eligible to take the home office deduction - even if you are working remotely in your home office.
Here is what taxpayers should keep in mind when it comes to understanding the home office deduction and whether they can claim it:
1. Regular and Exclusive Use. Generally, taxpayers must use a part of their home regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The part of a home used for business must also be:
For example, a taxpayer who uses an extra room to run their business can take a home office deduction only for that extra room so long as it is used both regularly and exclusively in the business.
The term "home" for purposes of this deduction is defined as a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat or similar property. It does not include any part of the taxpayer’s property used exclusively as a hotel, motel, inn or similar business.
A taxpayer can also meet this requirement if administrative or management activities are conducted at the home and there is no other location to perform these duties. Therefore, someone who conducts business outside of their home but also uses their home to conduct business may still qualify for a home office deduction.
2. Expenses that can be deducted. Taxpayers can deduct certain expenses such as mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance, depreciation and rent. They must meet specific requirements to claim home expenses as a deduction, and the deductible amount of these types of expenses may be limited.
3. Simplified Option. To use the simplified option, multiply the allowable square footage of the office by a rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. As such, the maximum deduction under this method is $1,500. This option saves time because it simplifies how to figure and claim the deduction and makes it easier to keep records. The rules for claiming a home office deduction remain the same.
4. Regular Method. This method includes certain costs paid for a home. For example, part of the rent for rented homes may qualify. Deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of the home devoted to business use. Taxpayers who use a whole room or part of a room for conducting their business need to figure out the percentage of the home used for business activities to deduct indirect expenses. Direct expenses are deducted in full.
5. Deduction Limit. If the gross income from the business use of a home is less than expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited.
Taxpayers who are self-employed and choose the regular method should use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount to deduct. Claim the deduction using either method on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business.
Please call if you would like more information about the home office deduction and how it applies to your tax situation.
Recordkeeping Tips for Individuals and Businesses
The key to avoiding headaches at tax time is keeping track of your receipts and other records throughout the year. Whether you use an excel spreadsheet, an app, an online system or keep your receipts organized in a folding file organized by month, good record-keeping will help you remember the various transactions you made during the year.
Taxpayers should add tax records to their files throughout the year as soon they receive them. This includes Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, and unemployment compensation documentation. Reviewing your recordkeeping systems now - or setting one up if you don't already have one in place - will pay off when it comes time to file your 2020 tax return next spring. Keeping good records also helps document any deductions you've claimed on your return and you will need this documentation should the IRS select your return for audit.
Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents - such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRA, and business or rental property - should be kept longer. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, however, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return such as:
Taxpayers should also keep records relating to property they dispose of or sell. These types of records are used to figure their basis for figuring gains or losses.
As a reminder, taxpayers should keep records for three years from the date they filed the return. Taxpayers who have employees must keep all employment tax records for at least four years after the tax is due or paid, whichever is later.Good record-keeping throughout the year saves you time and effort at tax time.
For more information on what kinds of records you should keep or assistance on setting up a recordkeeping system that works for you, please call the office.
What To Do If You Get a Letter From the IRS
The IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers every year for a variety of reasons. If you receive correspondence from the IRS don't panic. You can usually deal with a notice by simply responding to it; most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice has specific instructions, so read your notice carefully because it will tell you what you need to do. In most cases, your notice will be about changes to your account, taxes you owe or a payment request; however, your notice may also ask you for more information about a specific issue.
Unless you are specifically instructed to do so, there is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice. For example, if your notice says that the IRS changed or corrected your tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return. If you agree with the notice, you usually don't need to reply unless the notice gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment.
If you don't agree with the notice, you will need to write a letter that explains why you disagree and include information and documents you want the IRS to consider. Mail your response with the contact stub at the bottom of the notice to the address on the contact stub. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
For most notices, there is no need to call or visit the IRS. If you have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. As always, keep copies of any notices you receive with your tax records.
Be alert for tax scams as well. As a reminder, the IRS sends letters and notices by mail and does NOT contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information.
If you need assistance understanding an IRS Notice or letter, believe it is in error, or discover you owe additional tax, please call the office.
E-Signatures Temporarily Allowed for Certain Forms
The use of digital signatures on certain forms that cannot be filed electronically will now be temporarily allowed. Expanding the use of digital signatures will help to protect the health of taxpayers and tax professionals during the coronavirus pandemic by reducing in-person contact between taxpayers and tax professionals.
Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, already uses an electronic signature when it is filed electronically, either by using a taxpayer self-selected PIN, if self-prepared or a tax-preparer selected PIN, if using a tax professional. While more than 90 percent of Form 1040s are filed electronically, if you haven't filed your 2019 tax return this year, it is important to consider e-filing forms whenever possible, due to COVID-19.
The following forms can be submitted with digital signatures if mailed by or on December 31, 2020:
This temporary option for e-signatures is subject to change at any time. Please contact the office with questions about this or any tax-related information.
Tax Due Dates for September 2020
Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Individuals - Make a payment of your 2020 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment date for estimated tax in 2020.
Partnerships - File a 2019 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.
S corporations - File a 2019 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) or a substitute Schedule K-1.
Corporations - Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2020. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you make an estimate of your tax for the year.
Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.
Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.
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