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Owning your own business can be very rewarding, both personally and financially. Being the sole decision-maker for this important undertaking can also be overwhelming. Business owners have many choices to make, and these decisions involve tax consequences that are not always foreseen. We can help you minimize your overall tax burden by identifying and maximizing business deductions, providing guidance on substantiation of expenses, and exploring tax planning alternatives that are uniquely available to the self-employed.

Some frequently overlooked business expenses that you may be able to deduct include moving expenses, costs of travel away from home, entertainment expenses, and expenses related to a home office. Code Sec. 179 expense allowances on the purchase of new equipment can provide a significant deduction. In addition, there are multiple benefits when you employ your spouse, child, or other family member in the business.

There are some risks involved in adopting tax positions related to operating a business as an independent contractor. For example, the distinction between employee and independent contractor is an issue the IRS subjects to special scrutiny. As a self-employed individual, you must comply with these rules for yourself or for any workers that you hire. If you are an employer, you must withhold income and employment taxes from an employee’s income. However, if your workers are independent contractors, you are only required to report payments of $600 or more on a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income. Failing to make the right classification, however, could result in additional taxes, interest and penalties.

The IRS offers an amnesty program called the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) to encourage employers to reclassify their workers as employees for employment tax purposes for future tax periods. Under the VCSP, employers are allowed to prospectively treat the workers as employees at a cost that is 10 percent of what is normally owed in a worker misclassification situation.

Complex rules and calculations are involved in many of the planning opportunities that are available to you. We will be happy to review your overall tax scenario in order to maximize your tax savings. Please contact our office at 302.225.5000 your earliest convenience to make an appointment.

 

 

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Estate Planning Worksheet in Wilmington Delaware Estate planning is not just a task for the wealthy. Even though federal tax implications kick in only if your estate exceeds $5,430,000, there are other issues that make estate planning important for most individuals.

Start your estate planning by meeting with an attorney and your accountant. They can instruct you in the essentials of estate tax law and the requirements for establishing an estate plan. A key part of estate planning is compiling the documents that will accomplish your goals.

A basic estate plan should include the following documents:

  • Your will, which should name the guardian you choose for your minor children and an executor (personal representative) to carry out your instructions.
  • A listing of your assets. Include your home and other properties, pension and retirement accounts (401(k) & IRAs), investments (noting the cost basis), automobiles, jewelry, and any other assets.
  • Life insurance information such as your insurer, your policy number, the amount of insurance, and the location of your policies.
  • Financial and business records, including real estate deeds, tax returns and related support papers, your social security number, investment statements, and stock and bond certificates.
  • Funeral instructions, including your burial wishes and people to be notified upon your death.
  • Medical information and a list of your doctors.
  • Durable power of attorney, designating the individual(s) you select to act on your behalf if you're incapacitated.
  • Health care proxy naming the individual(s) you want to make health care decisions for you if you aren't capable.

Keep your original documents in a fireproof safe or with your attorney. Put your list of documents and the copies in a binder at home and tell your executor where the documents are located. If you would like assistance with your estate planning, please contact our office.

 

 

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FASB has issued an Exposure Draft of three Accounting Standards Updates.   The proposed changes are intended to simplify disclosures for employee benefit plan financial statements.  The most significant impact of the Exposure Draft would reduce complexity of employee benefit plan financial statements as follows:

  • Fully Benefit-Responsive Investment Contracts (EITF-15C-I) – the proposed update would allow investment contracts to be measured and presented at contract value versus fair value.
  • Plan Investment Disclosures (EITF-15C-II) – the proposed update would eliminate the current GAAP requirement for reporting investments that are 5% or more of net assets available for benefits and the net appreciation or depreciation by type for participant and nonparticipant-directed investments.  Net appreciation or depreciation would still be presented in the aggregate.

A full copy of the proposed changes can be found at www.fasb.org

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FASB released a Proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) for Not-for-Profit Entities.  The proposed update is intended to improve not-for-profit financial statements and the note disclosures to those statements.   The ASU is available at www.fasb.org. (Look under Latest News for 04/22/15, Click on the Exposure Document)  

Some of the more significant changes include:

1.Changing net asset classifications from three classes to two classes.  The two classes of net assets would either be those with donor restrictions or those without.

2.Presenting the cash flow statement on the direct method of reporting.

3.Changing the classification of certain items on the statement of cash flows

The effective date of any changes will be determined by FASB after considering stakeholder’s feedback.  Stakeholders are invited to comment on the proposed ASU until August 20, 2015.   

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Achieving a Better Life Experience ActThe "tax extenders" legislation that became law in December included the "Achieving a Better Life Experience Act" (also called the ABLE Act). This law provides for tax-exempt accounts that can help you or a family member with disabilities pay for qualified expenses related to the disability. These "ABLE accounts" are exempt from income tax although contributions to an account are not deductible on your federal income tax return. ABLE accounts are generally not means tested and some can provide limited bankruptcy protection.

You or a family member are eligible to open an ABLE account if:

1. You're entitled to social security disability benefits due to blindness or other disability, and that blindness or disability occurred before age 26; or

2. You file a disability certification with the IRS for the tax year.

Annual contributions to an ABLE account are limited to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion ($14,000 for 2015). Distributions are tax-free as long as they are less than your qualified disability expenses for the year. The list of qualified disability expenses includes housing, education, employment training/support, health prevention/wellness services, financial management, legal fees, and funeral expenses. Other expenses are also approved under the regulations.

Distributions exceeding qualified disability expenses are included in taxable income and are generally subject to a 10% penalty tax. Distributions can be rolled over to another ABLE account for another qualified beneficiary and beneficiaries can be changed between family members. Funds in the account can earn interest or dividends and are not subject to federal income tax as long as distributions are used for qualified disability expenses. ABLE accounts do not have a "use it or lose it" feature and funds can carry over to future years.

The balance remaining in the account after the beneficiary passes away can be used to reimburse state Medicaid payments made on behalf of the beneficiary after the account was established. The remainder goes to the deceased's estate or to another qualified designated beneficiary. After-death distributions that are not used for qualified disability purposes are subject to income taxes, but not the 10% penalty.

If you are thinking many of these rules sound familiar, you're correct. ABLE accounts are modeled on 529 college savings accounts and can be as powerful and beneficial. Give us a call so we can help you make the most of this new opportunity.

 

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To many people, an income tax refund might be one of the largest single cash receipts for the entire year. Avoid the temptation to spend your refund on consumption items. There are several places you can invest the refund to enhance your long-term financial goals. You can pay off current debt, invest in the stock market, make home improvements, or invest in a pension plan for retirement.

Let's assume you will be getting a $5,000 tax refund. The best return on your investment may well be to pay off current amounts you owe that have high interest rates. If you are carrying a credit card balance at 15% interest, a reduction in the balance is the equivalent of earning a 15% return on your money. Your $5,000 payment will save you $750 in interest expense over the next year. This is an outstanding return when compared to most other investments. If you leave the $5,000 balance on the credit card and make only the minimum monthly payment, you can pay up to twice that amount in interest, depending on your interest rate.

A second choice might be to pay down the principal balance on your home mortgage. A $5,000 reduction in a 4% thirty-year loan will save $11,000 in interest expense over the life of the loan.

Consider putting the cash into your retirement program. Only one out of five Americans can retire with adequate resources to live independently. $5,000 invested at a 6% compounding return will be worth $28,000 in thirty years. Your retirement fund could grow to almost $450,000 if you invest $5,000 each year for thirty years at a 6% compounding return. Have you ever heard anyone say that they retired with too much money?

 

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April 15 deadline circled on a calendar

If you can't file your 2014 tax return by the April 15 deadline, file for an extension to get until October 15, 2015, to file. You can request the extension on paper, by phone, or online. You don't need to explain why you need more time, but be aware that an extension doesn't give you more time to pay taxes you owe. To avoid penalty and interest charges, taxes must be paid by April 15.

 

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File cabinet with Retirement lableYou may be approaching an important deadline if you have retirement accounts and you turned 70½ last year. Generally, you must begin withdrawing money from tax-favored retirement plans in the year you turn 70½. However, you may postpone your first withdrawal until April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. That means you have until April 1, 2015, to complete your required 2014 distribution.

The minimum distribution rules don't apply to your Roth IRA accounts. And if you are still working at age 70½, you are generally not required to withdraw funds from a qualified employer-sponsored plan until April 1 of the calendar year following your actual retirement.

If you postponed your first distribution, you must take two distributions this year – one for 2014 and one for 2015. Your 2014 distribution must be completed by April 1, while your 2015 distribution must be completed by December 31, 2015. After that, you must take a distribution by December 31 each year until your retirement funds are depleted.

Generally, the amount of the RMD for any year is based on your age. You take the balance in all your traditional IRAs as of the last day of the previous year, and divide by a factor representing your life expectancy. The IRS has published a standard life expectancy table to use in the calculation. Special rules might apply if your spouse is more than ten years younger than you are and is the sole beneficiary of your IRA.

Make sure you notify the holder of your retirement account in time to complete your distribution. Follow up to ensure that the transaction will be completed on time. You may withdraw more than the required amount, but if you fail to take at least the minimum distribution on time, you are subject to a 50% penalty tax.

Don't overlook this important distribution deadline. Call our office if you would like assistance in planning your retirement withdrawals.

 

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Social Security TaxableDid you sign up for social security benefits last year? If so, you may have questions about how those payments are taxed on your federal income tax return.

The good news is the formula is the same as prior years. That's also the bad news, because the thresholds for determining taxability are not indexed for inflation, and did not change either. Those thresholds, or "base amounts," remain at $32,000 when you're married and file a joint return, and $25,000 when you're single.

How much of your social security benefit is taxable? To determine the answer, calculate your "provisional income." That's your adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest, certain other exclusions, and one-half of the social security benefits you received.

When you're married filing jointly, your benefits are 50% taxable if your provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000. If your provisional income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. For singles, the 50% taxability range is $25,000 to $34,000.

In some cases, diversifying the types of other retirement income you receive can reduce the tax burden on your social security benefits. Contact us if you want more information or planning assistance.

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IRS Scams

The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection is advising consumers about a tax scam that has resulted in an "explosion of complaints about callers who claim to be IRS agents – but are not." These IRS impersonation scams count on people's lack of knowledge about how the IRS contacts taxpayers. The IRS never calls a taxpayer about unpaid taxes or penalties; the initial contact is made by a mailed letter. If you get a call purporting to be from the IRS telling you to send money for unpaid taxes, hang up and report the scam to the FTC and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov.

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