Monthly Newsletter: April 2019
• Six Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers
• The Qualified Small Business Stock Exclusion
• Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Tax Credits
• Reporting Foreign Income
• Scam Alert: Fake Calls from Taxpayer Advocate Service
• Don't Delay: Late Filing and Late Payment Penalties
• There's Still Time to Make a 2018 IRA Contribution
• Fringe Benefit Deductions Change; Affect Business
 

Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. If desired, we would be pleased to perform the requisite research and provide you with a detailed written analysis. Such an engagement may be the subject of a separate engagement letter that would define the scope and limits of the desired consultation services.
 
Six Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers

Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes but many people find preparing their tax return to be stressful and frustrating and wait until the last minute. Complicating matters this year is tax reform and the newly redesigned Form 1040. If you've been procrastinating on filing your tax return this year, here are six tips that might help.

  1. Don't Delay. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute (i.e., April 15). Your haste to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error. Getting a head start--even if it is a week or two) will not only keep the process calm but also mean you get your return faster by avoiding the last-minute rush.

  2. Gather tax documents and other records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don't forget to save a copy for your files.

  3. Double-check your math and verify all Social Security numbers. These are among the most common errors found on tax returns. Taking care will reduce your chance of hearing from the IRS. Submitting an error-free return will also speed up your tax refund.

  4. E-file for a faster tax refund. Taxpayers who e-file and choose direct deposit for their refunds, for example, will get their refunds in as few as 10 days. That compares to approximately six weeks for people who file a paper return and get a traditional paper check.

  5. Don't Panic if You Can't Pay. If you can't immediately pay the taxes you owe, consider some stress-reducing alternatives. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate. You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee. Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government's financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the April due date, with no fee.

  6. Request an Extension of Time to File (but make sure you pay by the April 15 due date). If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension bringing the filing date to October 15, 2019. However, the extension itself does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.

If you run into any problems, have any questions, or need to file an extension, help is just a phone call away.

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The Qualified Small Business Stock Exclusion

As the driving force in today's economy, small businesses benefit from numerous tax breaks in the tax code. One of these, the Qualified Small Business Stock (QSBS), was made permanent by the PATH Act (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015). If you're a small business investor, here's what you need to know about this often-overlooked tax break.

What is the Qualified Small Business Stock Exclusion?

Sometimes referred to as Section 1202 (after Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code, the PATH Act made permanent for taxpayers (excluding corporations) the exclusion of 100 percent of the gain on the sale or exchange of qualified small business stock (QSBS) acquired after September 27, 2010, that is held longer than five years.

Two tax provisions apply to gain from the sale or trade of qualified small business stock. Taxpayers may qualify for a tax-free rollover of all or part of the gain, or they may be able to exclude gain from income.

Qualified stock must also meet the active business test, and it can't be an investment vehicle or an inactive business. A corporation meets this test for any period of time if, during that period, both the following are true:

  • It was an eligible corporation, defined below.
  • It used at least 80 percent (by value) of its assets in the active conduct of at least one qualified trade or business.

Further, QSBS gain excluded from income is not subject to the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax from capital gains (and other investment income) on high-income taxpayers.

Qualified Small Business. The definition of a qualified small business under the IRS varies; however, examples of businesses that do NOT qualify include, but are not limited to:

  • A regulated investment company,
  • A real estate investment trust (REIT)
  • One involving services performed in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, or brokerage services;
  • Any business of operating a hotel, motel, restaurant, or similar business.
  • Any farming business (including the business of raising or harvesting trees).

What is Qualified Small Business Stock (QSBS)?

Qualified small business stock is stock that meets all of the following tests:

  1. It must be stock in a C corporation.
  2. It must have been originally issued after August 10, 1993.
  3. The corporation must have total gross assets of $50 million or less at all times after August 9, 1993, and before it issued the stock. Its total gross assets immediately after it issued the stock must also be $50 million or less.
  4. When figuring the corporation's total gross assets, you must also count the assets of any predecessor of the corporation. In addition, you must treat all corporations that are members of the same parent-subsidiary controlled group as one corporation.
  5. You must have acquired the stock at its original issue, directly or through an underwriter, in exchange for money or other property (not including stock), or as payment for services provided to the corporation (other than services performed as an underwriter of the stock). In certain cases, your stock may also meet this test if you acquired it from another person who met this test, or through a conversion or trade of qualified small business stock that you held.
  6. The corporation must have met the active business test, defined next, and must have been a C corporation during substantially all the time you held the stock.
  7. Within the period beginning two years before and ending two years after the stock was issued, the corporation cannot have bought more than a de minimis amount of its stock from you or a related party.
  8. Within the period beginning one year before and ending one year after the stock was issued, the corporation cannot have bought more than a de minimis amount of its stock from anyone, unless the total value of the stock it bought is five percent or less of the total value of all its stock.

Questions?

The QSBS exclusion, as with many tax provisions, is complicated. Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or would like more information on this topic.

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Refundable vs. Non-Refundable Tax Credits

Tax credits can reduce your tax bill or give you a bigger refund, but not all tax credits are created equal. While most tax credits are refundable, some credits are nonrefundable, but before we take a look at the difference between refundable and nonrefundable tax credits, it's important to understand the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction.

Tax credits reduce your tax liability dollar for dollar and are more valuable than tax deductions that reduce your taxable income and tied to your marginal tax bracket. Let's look at the difference between a tax credit of $1,000 and a tax deduction of $1,000 for a taxpayer whose income places them in the 22% tax bracket:

  • A tax credit worth $1,000 reduces the amount of tax owed by $1,000--the same dollar amount.

  • A tax deduction worth the same amount ($1,000) only saves you $330, however (0.22 x $1,000 = $220). As you can see, tax credits save you more money than tax deductions.

Tax Credits: Refundable vs. Nonrefundable

A refundable tax credit not only reduces the federal tax you owe but also could result in a refund if it more than you owe. Let's say you are eligible to take a $1,000 Child Tax Credit but only owe $200 in taxes. The additional amount ($800) is treated as a refund to which you are entitled.

A nonrefundable tax credit, on the other hand, means you get a refund only up to the amount you owe. For example, if you are eligible to take an American Opportunity Tax Credit worth $1,000 and the amount of tax owed is only $800, you can only reduce your taxable amount by $800--not the full $1,000.

Refundable Tax Credits

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit
  • The Child and Dependent Care Credit
  • The Saver's Credit

Nonrefundable Tax Credits

Examples of nonrefundable tax credits include:

  • Adoption Tax Credit
  • Foreign Tax Credit
  • Mortgage Interest Tax Credit
  • Residential Energy Property Credit
  • Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled
  • Child Tax Credit (tax years prior to 2018)

Partially Refundable Tax Credits

Some tax credits are only partially refundable such as:

  • Child Tax Credit (starting in 2018)
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit

Questions about tax credits or deductions?

If you have any questions or would like more information about either of these tax topics, please call.

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Reporting Foreign Income

If you are living or working outside the United States, you generally must file and pay your tax in the same way as people living in the U.S. This includes people with dual citizenship.

In addition, U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts exceeding certain thresholds may be required to file Form FinCen114, known as the "FBAR" as well as Form 8938, also referred to as "FATCA."

FBAR is not a tax form, but is due to the Treasury Department by April 15, 2019, and must be filed electronically through the BSA E-Filing System website. It may be extended to October 15.

FATCA (Form 8938) is submitted on the tax due date (including extensions, if any,) of your income tax return.

Here's what else you need to know about reporting foreign income:

1. Report Worldwide Income. By law, Americans living abroad, as well as many non-U.S. citizens, must file a U.S. income tax return and report any worldwide income. Some key tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion, are only available to those who file U.S. returns.

2. Report Foreign Accounts and Assets. Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts.

3. File Required Tax Forms. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to file Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with their tax returns. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.

Some taxpayers may need to file additional forms with the Treasury Department such as Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets or FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts ("FBAR").

FBAR. Taxpayers with foreign accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2018 (or in 2019 for next year's filing returns) must file a Treasury Department FinCEN Form 114 (formerly TD F 90-22.1), Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts ("FBAR").

Form 8938. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens, and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds:

  • If the total value is at or below $50,000 at the end of the tax year, there is no reporting requirement for the year, unless the total value was more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year
  • Taxpayers who do not have to file an income tax return for the tax year do not have to file Form 8938, regardless of the value of their specified foreign financial assets.

The threshold is higher for individuals who live outside the United States and thresholds are different for married and single taxpayers. In addition, penalties apply for failure to file accurately.

Please contact the office if you need additional information about thresholds for reporting, what constitutes a specified foreign financial asset, how to determine the total value of relevant assets, what assets are exempted and what information must be provided.

An individual may have to file both forms, and separate penalties may apply for failure to file each form.

4. Review the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Many Americans who live and work abroad qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion when they file their tax return. This means taxpayers who qualify will not pay taxes on up to $103,900 of their wages and other foreign earned income they received in 2018 ($105,900 in 2019). Please contact the office if you have any questions about foreign earned income exclusion.

5. Don't Overlook Credits and Deductions. Taxpayers may be able to take either a credit or a deduction for income taxes paid to a foreign country. This benefit reduces the taxes these taxpayers pay in situations where both the U.S. and another country tax the same income. However, you cannot claim the additional child tax credit if you file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income or Form 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

6. Automatic Extension. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad on April 15, 2019, qualified for an automatic two-month extension (until June 15) to file their 2018 federal income tax returns. The extension of time to file also applies to those serving in the military outside the U.S. Taxpayers must attach a statement to their returns explaining why they qualify for the extension.

7. Additional Extension of Time to File. U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad may be granted a filing extension of up to six months (October 15, 2019) by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return prior to the due date of the tax return (April 15, 2019). However, a taxpayer filing an extension must pay any tax due by the original date or be subject to late payment penalties and interest.

8. Get Tax Help. If you're a taxpayer or resident alien living abroad that needs help with tax filing issues, IRS notices, and tax bills, or have questions about foreign earned income and offshore financial assets in a bank or brokerage account, don't hesitate to call.

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Scam Alert: Fake Calls from Taxpayer Advocate Service

Like clockwork, every year, there's a new twist on old scams. This year, it is the IRS impersonation phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. The TAS is an independent organization within the IRS that help protect your taxpayer rights. TAS can help if you need assistance resolving an IRS problem, if your problem is causing financial difficulty, or if you believe an IRS system or procedure isn't working as it should. Typically, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help first, and only then would TAS reach out to the taxpayer. TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers out of the blue.

How the scam works

Like many other IRS impersonation scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. In this most recent scam variation, callers "spoof" the telephone number of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn. Calls may be 'robo-calls' that request a call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist requests personal information, including Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

In other variations of the IRS impersonation phone scam, fraudsters demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often hostile and abusive. Alternately, scammers may tell would-be victims that they are entitled to a large refund but must first provide personal information. Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or another local law enforcement agency is calling.
  • Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or with, driver's license or other professional license revocation, scammers hang up. Others soon call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles, and caller ID again supports their claim.

Telltale signs of a scam call

While the IRS or the TAS will never do any of the following, scammers will often:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call about an unexpected tax refund.

Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time and its important to stay alert to scams that use the IRS or other legitimate companies and agencies as a lure. If you have any concerns, please call the office.

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Don't Delay: Late Filing and Late Payment Penalties

April 15 (April 17 if you live in Maine or Massachusetts) is the deadline for most people to file their federal income tax return and pay any taxes they owe. The bad news is that if you miss the deadline (for whatever reason), you may be assessed penalties for both failing to file a tax return and for failing to pay taxes they owe by the deadline. The good news is that there is no penalty if you file a late tax return but are due a refund.

Here are ten important facts every taxpayer should know about penalties for filing or paying late:

1. A failure-to-file penalty may apply. If you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will most likely owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late.

2. Penalty for filing late. The penalty for filing a late return is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late and starts accruing the day after the tax filing due date. Late filing penalties will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

3. Failure to pay penalty. If you do not pay your taxes by the tax deadline, you normally will face a failure-to-pay penalty of 1/2 of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes. That penalty applies for each month or part of a month after the due date and starts accruing the day after the tax-filing due date.

4. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. You should file your tax return on time each year, even if you're not able to pay all the taxes you owe by the due date. You can reduce additional interest and penalties by paying as much as you can with your tax return. You should explore other payment options such as getting a loan or making an installment agreement to make payments. Contact the office today if you need help figuring out how to pay what you owe.

5. Extension of time to file. If you timely requested an extension of time to file your individual income tax return and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe with your request, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay any remaining balance by the extended due date.

6. Two penalties may apply. One penalty is for filing late and one is for paying late--and they can add up fast, especially since interest accrues on top of the penalties but if both the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the 1/2 percent failure-to-pay penalties apply in any month, the maximum penalty that you'll pay for both is 5 percent.

7. Minimum penalty. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

8. Reasonable cause. You will not have to pay a late-filing or late-payment penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time. Please call if you have any questions about what constitutes reasonable cause.

9. Penalty relief. The IRS generally provides penalty relief, including postponing filing and payment deadlines, to any area covered by a disaster declaration for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

10. File even if you can't pay. Filing on time and paying as much as you can, keeps your interest and penalties to a minimum. If you can't pay in full, getting a loan or paying by debit or credit card may be less expensive than owing the IRS. If you do owe the IRS, the sooner you pay your bill, the less you will owe.

If you need assistance, help is just a phone call away!

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There's Still Time to Make a 2018 IRA Contribution

If you haven't contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) for tax year 2018, or if you've put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date, not including extensions.

Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for 2018. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for 2019 when they get your funds.

Generally, you can contribute up to $5,500 of your earnings for tax year 2018 (up to $6,500 if you are age 50 or older in 2018). You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these amounts.

Traditional IRA: You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse, if filing jointly, are covered by an employer's pension plan.

Roth IRA: You cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution.

Saving for retirement should be part of everyone's financial plan and it's important to review your retirement goals every year in order to maximize savings. If you need help figuring out which retirement strategies are best for your situation, give the office a call.

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Fringe Benefit Deductions Change; Affect Business

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included a number of tax law changes that affect small businesses such as deductions for fringe benefit, which can affect both a business's bottom line and its employees' deductions. Here's a summary of what these are:

Transportation fringe benefits. The new law disallows deductions for expenses associated with qualified transportation fringe benefits or expenses incurred providing transportation for commuting, except as necessary for employee safety.

Bicycle commuting reimbursements. Under the new tax law, employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense for 2018 through 2025. The new tax law suspends the exclusion of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee's income for 2018 through 2025. Employers must now include these reimbursements in the employee's wages.

Moving expenses. Employers must now include moving expense reimbursements in employees' wages. The new tax law suspends the former exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements. There is one exception for active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. They can still exclude moving expenses from their income. There is additional guidance on reimbursements for employees' who moved in 2017, but were reimbursed for expenses in 2018. Generally, reimbursements in this situation are not taxed.

Achievement awards. Special rules allow an employee to exclude achievement awards from wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. The new law clarifies the definition of tangible personal property.

Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about tax law changes affecting fringe benefits and your small business.

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Tax Due Dates for April 2019

April 1

Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 - File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, and 3922 with the IRS (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation). This due date applies only if you file electronically.

Electronic Filing of Form W-2G- File copies of all the Form W-2G (Certain Gambling Winnings) you issued for 2018. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

Electronic Filing of Forms 8027 - File copies of all the Forms 8027 you issued for 2018. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

Electronic Filing of Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and Forms 1094-B and 1094-B - If you're an applicable Large Employer, file electronic forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of essential minimum coverage, file electronic Forms 1094-B and 1095-B with the IRS.

April 10

Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during March, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

April 15

Individuals - File an income tax return for 2018 (Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return or you can get an extension by phone if you pay part or all of your estimate of income tax due with a credit card. Then file Form 1040 by October 15.

Household Employers - If you paid cash wages of $2,100 or more in 2018 to a household employee, file Schedule H (Form 1040) with your income tax return and report any employment taxes. Report any federal unemployment (FUTA) tax on Schedule H if you paid total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2017 or 2018 to household employees. Also, report any income tax you withheld for your household employees.

Individuals - If you are not paying your 2019 income tax through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax during the year that way), pay the first installment of your 2019 estimated tax. Use Form 1040-ES.

Corporations - File a 2018 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due. If you want an automatic 6-month extension of time to file the return, file Form 7004 and deposit what you estimate you owe in taxes.

Corporations - Deposit the first installment of estimated income tax for 2019. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year.

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in March.

April 30

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File form 941 for the first quarter of 2019. Deposit any undeposited tax. (If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return.) If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until May 10 to file the return.

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