It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Year-End Accounting CleanupPosted on November 25th, 2018
Outsourced Accounting Department, Inc.
It’s that time again! The taxes are coming due, and your books may have gone all year without being looked at by an accountant. If so, what many business owners don’t realize is that when your CPA or tax preparer takes your books to prepare your tax return, they are not performing an “audit,” so they are not providing any assurances to the IRS as to the underlying validity of the income and deductions you show on your books. They may make some obvious adjustments for tax purposes in their own tax software, but may or may not provide those changes to you to enter in your books.
Thus, whenever we review a client’s QuickBooks file, we look at it first from the viewpoint of a CFO / Controller to make sure the financials make sense (and for “book” purposes, not tax). Here are the types of things we look at before I send the financials to an outside CPA firm or tax preparer:
Balance Sheet – Pull it up as of December 31st, and create a comparison to the previous year, and check the following:
- Bank Reconciliations – This is the starting point. Make sure your bank accounts are reconciled to the bank statements. This tells you that you at least have accounted for all of your cash. Even if it’s not categorized properly, you can always correct the account classifications later. Make sure that the “cleared” balance agrees with the ending balance on your bank statement.
- Credit Card Reconciliations – If you track credit cards in QuickBooks, reconcile those the same way you would reconcile your bank account. Make sure all charges are entered and categorized, all payments are recorded, and that the “cleared” balance in QuickBooks agrees with the year-end credit card statement balance.
- Negative Account Balances: (other than “Accumulated Depreciation,” “Retained Earnings,” and “Net Income”). Negative balances in any accounts other than these three indicate major accounting or set-up errors and need to be investigated and corrected. For example, common mistakes I’ve seen are setting up credit card or loans accounts as a “Bank” type account, or posting payments to accounts payable without first entering the bills.
- Due To (liability) / From (asset) Stockholder Accounts: Throughout the year, funds may be lent to the business by the owner (“Due To” account), or taken out of the business in the form of cash transfers or personal expenses (“Due From” account). Care should be taken to make sure this information is accurate as these accounts affect your “basis” in the company. For example, if you take money out of the business that exceeds your “basis,” it can cause you to pay more taxes even if your business had no income.
- Inter-Company Loans: Multiple “company files” with extensive inter-company transactions, with no effort to reconcile and consolidate the financial statements. The amount owed to Company A, “Due From Affiliate”(asset side), should logically equal the amount owed by Company B, “Due To Affiliate” (liability side). If not, investigate and correct.
- All other balance sheet accounts should be “tied out” to external documentation such as year-end statement balances, loan amortization schedules, etc. A common mistake we see is entire loan payments being posted against the loan balance or the Profit & Loss statement, rather than separating the principal and interest portion.
Profit and Loss – Account Classifications – After your bank accounts have been reconciled, the next step is to create a “detailed” Profit & Loss Statement report (or other accounting report) and do the following:
- Salaries & Wages – Verify that they agree with your W-3 and W-2s. If you do your own payroll, make sure it was done correctly and that “gross” salaries are just that, NOT your net paychecks.
- Officer Salaries – If you are an S-Corporation, ensure that Officer Salaries are “reasonable” in relation to the business’ profit. And note, what is “reasonable” is very subjective and something you should have discussed with your tax preparer before year-end, as this is closely monitored by the IRS and can trigger an audit. Read More.
- Meals & Entertainment are clearly identified.
- Fixed Asset Purchases – Larger amounts, say over $1,000.00 (your tax preparer may use a larger threshold for tax purposes), should be posted to Fixed Assets on the Balance sheet, not the P&L, and clearly described in the memo field.
- All other expenses are categorized where they belong and consistent with the prior year, which by now, should also have been adjusted to agree with the prior year tax return (except for book and tax differences).
- Net Income – Ultimately, your prior year net income should agree with the “Net Income (Loss) Per Books” shown on your prior year tax return (Schedule M-1, line 1), as this is where your tax preparer will begin when preparing your current year taxes.
The above are just a few of the major items that need to be looked at, but these will go a long way toward achieving accounting accuracy. Again, keep in mind that in the end, the burden of accurate reporting of income and deductions still rests with you – the business owner.
Year-End Tax Planning for IndividualsPosted on November 17th, 2018
Outsourced Accounting Department, Inc.
Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents a number of challenges, this year, primarily due to tax laws changes brought about the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018. These changes include the nearly doubling of the standard deduction, elimination of personal exemptions, and numerous itemized deductions reduced or eliminated. Let’s take a closer look.
General Tax Planning
General tax planning strategies for individuals this year include postponing income and accelerating deductions, as well as careful consideration of timing related investments, charitable gifts, and retirement planning. For example, taxpayers might consider using one or more of the following:
- Selling any investments on which you have a gain or loss this year. For more on this, see Investment Gains and Losses, below.
- If you anticipate an increase in taxable income this year, in 2018, and are expecting a bonus at year-end, try to get it before December 31. Keep in mind, however, that contractual bonuses are different, in that they are typically not paid out until the first quarter of the following year. Therefore, any taxes owed on a contractual bonus would not be due until you file your 2019 tax return in 2020.
- Prepaying deductible expenses this year using a credit card. Examples of deductible expenses include charitable contributions and medical expenses. This strategy works because deductions may be taken based on when the expense was charged on the credit card, not when the bill was paid. Likewise with checks. For example, if you charge a medical expense in December but pay the bill in January, assuming it’s an eligible medical expense, it can be taken as a deduction on your 2018 tax return.
- If your company grants stock options, then you may want to exercise the option or sell stock acquired by exercise of an option this year. Use this strategy if you think your tax bracket will be higher in 2019. Generally, exercising this option is a taxable event; sale of the stock is almost always a taxable event.
- If you’re self-employed, send invoices or bills to clients or customers this year to be paid in full by the end of December.
Caution: Keep an eye on the estimated tax requirements.
Accelerating Income and Deductions
Accelerating income and deductions are two strategies that are commonly used to help taxpayers minimize their tax liability. Most taxpayers anticipate increased earnings from year to year, whether it’s from a job or investments, so this strategy works well. On the flip side, however, if you anticipate a lower income next year or know you will have significant medical bills, you might want to consider deferring income and expenses to the following year.
If you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year, accelerating income into 2018 is a good idea, especially for taxpayers whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare Tax or Net Investment Income Tax (see below).
Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent of net investment income) should pay close attention to “one-time” income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.
Tip: If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, there is still time to increase your withholding before year-end and avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due. On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.
In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2018, depending on your situation. Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest are examples of these types of tax benefits.
Examples of other strategies a taxpayer might take include:
- Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
- Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2019, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
- Pay 2019 tuition in 2018 to take full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an above-the-line credit worth up to $2,500 per student to cover the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable, which means you can get it even if you owe no tax.
- Try to bunch medical expenses. For example, you might pay medical bills in whichever year they would do you the most tax good. Medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, to deduct medical and dental expenses these amounts must exceed 7.5 percent of AGI. By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.
Note: The 7.5 percent threshold is only in effect for tax years 2017 and 2018. In 2019, it reverts to 10 percent AGI.
Additional Medicare Tax
Taxpayers whose income exceeds certain threshold amounts ($200,000 single filers and $250,000 married filing jointly) are liable for an additional Medicare tax of 0.9 percent on their tax returns, but may request that their employers withhold additional income tax from their pay to be applied against their tax liability when filing their 2018 tax return next April.
High net worth individuals should consider contributing to Roth IRAs and 401(k) because distributions are not subject to the Medicare Tax.
If you’re a taxpayer close to the threshold for the Medicare Tax, it might make sense to switch Roth retirement contributions to a traditional IRA plan, thereby avoiding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) as well (more about the NIIT below).
Alternate Minimum Tax
The alternative minimum tax (AMT) applies to high-income taxpayers that take advantage of deductions and credits to reduce their taxable income. The AMT ensures that those taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of tax and was made permanent under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012.
Although the AMT remained under the TCJA exemption amounts increased significantly. As such, the AMT is not expected to affect as many taxpayers. Furthermore, the phaseout threshold increases to $500,000 ($1 million for married filing jointly). Both the exemption and threshold amounts are indexed for inflation.
Note: AMT exemption amounts for 2018 are as follows:
- $70,300 for single and head of household filers,
- $109,400 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers,
- $54,700 for married people filing separately.
Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however.
Keep in mind that a written record of your charitable contributions–including travel expenses such as mileage–is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a canceled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.
Taxpayers age 70 ½ or older can reduce income tax owed on required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRA accounts by donating them to a charitable organization(s) instead.
Investment Gains and Losses
This year, and in the coming years, investment decisions are often more about managing capital gains than about minimizing taxes per se. For example, taxpayers below threshold amounts in 2018 might want to take gains; whereas taxpayers above threshold amounts might want to take losses.
Caution: Fluctuations in the stock market are commonplace; don’t assume that a down market means investment losses as your cost basis may be low if you’ve held the stock for a long time.
Minimize taxes on investments by judicious matching of gains and losses. Where appropriate, try to avoid short-term capital gains, which are taxed as ordinary income (i.e., the rate is the same as your tax bracket).
In 2018 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2017 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, due to tax reform, threshold amounts do not correspond to the new tax bracket structure as in prior years:
- 0% – Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income up to $38,600 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly.
- 15% – Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $38,600 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly.
- 20% – Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $425,800 for single filers, $479,000 for married filing jointly.
Where feasible, reduce all capital gains and generate short-term capital losses up to $3,000. As a general rule, if you have a large capital gain this year, consider selling an investment on which you have an accumulated loss. Capital losses up to the amount of your capital gains plus $3,000 per year ($1,500 if married filing separately) can be claimed as a deduction against income.
Wash Sale Rule. After selling a securities investment to generate a capital loss, you can repurchase it after 30 days. This is known as the “Wash Rule Sale.” If you buy it back within 30 days, the loss will be disallowed. Or you can immediately repurchase a similar (but not the same) investment, e.g., and ETF or another mutual fund with the same objectives as the one you sold.
Tip: If you have losses, you might consider selling securities at a gain and then immediately repurchasing them, since the 30-day rule does not apply to gains. That way, your gain will be tax-free; your original investment is restored, and you have a higher cost basis for your new investment (i.e., any future gain will be lower).
Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)
The Net Investment Income Tax, which went into effect in 2013, is a 3.8 percent tax that is applied to investment income such as long-term capital gains for earners above certain threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). Short-term capital gains are subject to ordinary income tax rates as well as the 3.8 percent NIIT. This information is something to think about as you plan your long-term investments. Business income is not considered subject to the NIIT provided the individual business owner materially participates in the business.
Mutual Fund Investments
Before investing in a mutual fund, ask whether a dividend is paid at the end of the year or whether a dividend will be paid early in the next year but be deemed paid this year. The year-end dividend could make a substantial difference in the tax you pay.
Example: You invest $20,000 in a mutual fund in 2018. You opt for automatic reinvestment of dividends, and in late December of 2018, the fund pays a $1,000 dividend on the shares you bought. The $1,000 is automatically reinvested.
Result: You must pay tax on the $1,000 dividend. You will have to take funds from another source to pay that tax because of the automatic reinvestment feature. The mutual fund’s long-term capital gains pass through to you as capital gains dividends taxed at long-term rates, however long or short your holding period.
The mutual fund’s distributions to you of dividends it receives generally qualify for the same tax relief as long-term capital gains. If the mutual fund passes through its short-term capital gains, these will be reported to you as “ordinary dividends” that don’t qualify for relief.
Depending on your financial circumstances, it may or may not be a good idea to buy shares right before the fund goes ex-dividend. For instance, the distribution could be relatively small, with only minor tax consequences. Or the market could be moving up, with share prices expected to be higher after the ex-dividend date. To find out a fund’s ex-dividend date, call the fund directly.
Please call if you’d like more information on how dividends paid out by mutual funds affect your taxes this year and next.
Year-End Giving To Reduce Your Potential Estate Tax
The federal gift and estate tax exemption is currently set at $11.18 million but is projected to increase to $11.4 million in 2019. ATRA set the maximum estate tax rate set at 40 percent.
Gift Tax. Sound estate planning often begins with lifetime gifts to family members. In other words, gifts that reduce the donor’s assets subject to future estate tax. Such gifts are often made at year-end, during the holiday season, in ways that qualify for exemption from federal gift tax.
Gifts to a donee are exempt from the gift tax for amounts up to $15,000 a year per donee in 2018 and are expected to remain the same in 2019.
Caution: An unused annual exemption doesn’t carry over to later years. To make use of the exemption for 2018, you must make your gift by December 31.
Husband-wife joint gifts to any third person are exempt from gift tax for amounts up to $30,000 ($15,000 each). Though what’s given may come from either you or your spouse or both of you, both of you must consent to such “split gifts.”
Gifts of “future interests,” assets that the donee can only enjoy at some future time such as certain gifts in trust, generally don’t qualify for exemption; however, gifts for the benefit of a minor child can be made to qualify.
Tip: If you’re considering adopting a plan of lifetime giving to reduce future estate tax, don’t hesitate to call the office for assistance.
Cash or publicly traded securities raise the fewest problems. You may choose to give property you expect to increase substantially in value later. Shifting future appreciation to your heirs keeps that value out of your estate. But this can trigger IRS questions about the gift’s true value when given.
You may choose to give property that has already appreciated. The idea here is that the donee, not you, will realize and pay income tax on future earnings and built-in gain on sale.
Gift tax returns for 2018 are due the same date as your income tax return (April 15, 2019). Returns are required for gifts over $15,000 (including husband-wife split gifts totaling more than $15,000) and gifts of future interests. Though you are not required to file if your gifts do not exceed $15,000, you might consider filing anyway as a tactical move to block a future IRS challenge about gifts not “adequately disclosed.” Please call the office if you’re considering making a gift of property whose value isn’t unquestionably less than $15,000.
New Tax Rate Structure for the Kiddie Tax
Under the TCJA, the kiddie tax rules have changed. For tax years 2018 through 2025, unearned income exceeding $2,100 is taxed at the rates paid by trusts and estates. For ordinary income (amounts over $12,501), the maximum rate is 37 percent. For long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, the maximum rate is 20 percent.
Other Year-End Moves
Maximize Retirement Plan Contributions. If you own an incorporated or unincorporated business, consider setting up a retirement plan if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t actually need to be funded until you pay your taxes, but allowable contributions will be deductible on this year’s return.
If you are an employee and your employer has a 401(k), contribute the maximum amount ($18,500 for 2018), plus an additional catch-up contribution of $6,000 if age 50 or over, assuming the plan allows this and income restrictions don’t apply.
If you are employed or self-employed with no retirement plan, you can make a deductible contribution of up to $5,500 a year to a traditional IRA (deduction is sometimes allowed even if you have a plan). Further, there is also an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 if age 50 or over.
Health Savings Accounts. Consider setting up a health savings account (HSA). You can deduct contributions to the account, investment earnings are tax-deferred until withdrawn, and amounts you withdraw are tax-free when used to pay medical bills.
In effect, medical expenses paid from the account are deductible from the first dollar (unlike the usual rule limiting such deductions to the amount of excess over 7.5 percent of AGI). For amounts withdrawn at age 65 or later that are not used for medical bills, the HSA functions much like an IRA.
To be eligible, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), and only such insurance, subject to numerous exceptions, and must not be enrolled in Medicare. For 2018, to qualify for the HSA, your minimum deductible in your HDHP must be at least $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for a family.
529 Education Plans. Maximize contributions to 529 plans, which starting in 2018, can be used for elementary and secondary school tuition as well as college or vocational school.
These are just a few of the steps you might take. Please contact the office for assistance with implementing these and other year-end planning strategies that might be suitable for your particular situation.
Year-End Tax Planning for BusinessesPosted on November 11th, 2018
Marianne Kern, CPA
Kern & Associates CPA, P.A.
There are a number of end of year tax planning strategies that businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2018. Here are a few of them:
Businesses using the cash method of accounting can defer income into 2019 by delaying end-of-year invoices, so payment is not received until 2019. Businesses using the accrual method can defer income by postponing delivery of goods or services until January 2019.
Again, for clients whose business is on a cash basis for tax purposes, paying accounts payable early, or making other purchases prior to year-end can also reduce your tax liability. For a few of our clients for whom we are “matching” their cost-of-goods-sold to sales each month, their actual inventory purchases for the year may also be deductible.
Purchase New Business Equipment
Section 179 Expensing. Business should take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2018 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $1 million for the first $2.5 million of property placed in service by December 31, 2018.
Caution: The new law removes computer or peripheral equipment from the definition of listed property. This change applies to property placed in service after December 31, 2017.
Tax reform legislation also expanded the definition of Section 179 property to allow the taxpayer to elect to include certain improvements made to nonresidential real property after the date when the property was first placed in service (see below). These changes apply to property placed in service in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017.
- Qualified improvement property, which means any improvement to a building’s interior. However, improvements do not qualify if they are attributable to:
- the enlargement of the building,
- any elevator or escalator or
- the internal structural framework of the building.
- Roofs, HVAC, fire protection systems, alarm systems and security systems.
Bonus Depreciation. Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026.
Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired. (Please contact the office if you have any questions regarding qualified property.)
If you plan to purchase business equipment this year, consider the timing. You might be able to increase your tax benefit if you buy equipment at the right time. Here’s a simplified explanation. The tax rules for depreciation include “conventions” or rules for figuring out how many months of depreciation you can claim. If you’re planning on buying equipment for your business, call the office and speak with a tax professional who can help you figure out the best time to buy that equipment and take full advantage of these tax rules.
Other Year-End Moves to Take Advantage Of:
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. Small business employers with 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees with average annual wages of $50,000 indexed for inflation (e.g., $52,400 in 2017) may qualify for a tax credit to help pay for employees’ health insurance.
Business Energy Investment Tax Credits. Business energy investment tax credits are still available for eligible systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2022, and businesses that want to take advantage of these tax credits can still do so.
Repair Regulations. Where possible, end of year repairs and expenses should be deducted immediately, rather than capitalized and depreciated.
Qualified Business Income Deduction.
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, non-“C-Corporations,” meaning “Pass Through Entities” such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and S Corporations, may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20 percent of their qualified business income (QBI) from a qualified trade or business for tax years 2018 through 2025. To take advantage of the deduction, taxable income must be under $157,500 ($315,000 for joint returns).
Depreciation Limitations on Luxury, Passenger Automobiles and Heavy Vehicles
The new law changed depreciation limits for luxury passenger vehicles placed in service after December 31, 2017. If the taxpayer doesn’t claim bonus depreciation, the maximum allowable depreciation deduction is $10,000 for the first year.
Retirement Plans. Self-employed individuals who have not yet done so should set up self-employed retirement plans before the end of 2018. Call today if you need help setting up a retirement plan.
Consult With a Tax Professional First
These are just a few of the year-end planning tax moves that could make a substantial difference in your tax bill for 2018. If you’d like more information about tax planning for 2019, please call or email us to discuss your specific tax and financial needs, and develop a plan that works for your business.
How Does The 2017 “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” Affect YOU?Posted on November 4th, 2018
Outsourced Accounting Department, Inc.
So first, how does the The 2017 “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” affect small businesses? Let’s take a look. Assume the following:
- You and your spouse are 50% owners in your Sub-Chapter S (1120S) business.
- Each of you takes a $25,000 annual salary
- The Net Income of the business is $50,000, so each of you reports 50% of the business Net Income on your K-1 on your personal (1040) tax return.
- You do not have enough deductions to itemize on your tax return, so can take only the standard deduction.
Based on the above assumptions, here is what your tax liability would have been in 2017:
Based on your total gross income of $100,000 (salaries plus net income), and the standard deduction in 2017 of $12,700 and 2 exemptions of $4,050 (total of $20,800) for a married couple filing jointly, your taxable income becomes $79,200, resulting in taxes due of $11,278.
Now, in 2018, not only were tax rates reduced in all tax brackets, but the standard deduction was increased to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly, while the exemptions were eliminated. Also, for small businesses, an additional credit is available based on of 20% of business net income. In this case based on the above assumptions, this credit would amount to $10,000, resulting in Taxable Income of $66,000, and taxes due of $7,539, or a decrease in taxes of $3,739 in 2018.
But what if you don’t own a business, how would the tax cuts affect you? Assume now that you each have an annual salary of $50,000, so total gross income of $100,000:
Your taxable income is now $76,000, resulting in taxes due of $8,739, or a decrease of $2,539 from 2017.
Clearly, this tax cut act does benefit both small businesses and individuals, just something to consider as we approach the mid-term elections. As to how tax cuts affect the economy, obviously, it depends on who you ask. But below are some charts created from historical government statistical data.
Related Articles and Statistical Data: