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Many business owners use a calendar year as their company’s tax year. It’s intuitive and aligns with most owners’ personal returns, making it about as simple as anything involving taxes can be. But for some businesses, choosing a fiscal tax year can make more sense.

What’s a fiscal tax year?

A fiscal tax year consists of 12 consecutive months that don’t begin on January 1 or end on December 31 — for example, July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The year doesn’t necessarily need to end on the last day of a month. It might end on the same day each year, such as the last Friday in March.

Flow-through entities (partnerships, S corporations and, typically, limited liability companies) using a fiscal tax year must file their return by the 15th day of the third month following the close of their fiscal year. So, if their fiscal year ends on March 31, they would need to file their return by June 15. (Fiscal-year C corporations generally must file their return by the 15th day of the fourth month following the fiscal year close.)

When a fiscal year makes sense

A key factor to consider is that if you adopt a fiscal tax year you must use the same time period in maintaining your books and reporting income and expenses. For many seasonal businesses, a fiscal year can present a more accurate picture of the company’s performance.

For example, a snowplowing business might make the bulk of its revenue between November and March. Splitting the revenue between December and January to adhere to a calendar year end would make obtaining a solid picture of performance over a single season difficult.

In addition, if many businesses within your industry use a fiscal year end and you want to compare your performance to your peers, you’ll probably achieve a more accurate comparison if you’re using the same fiscal year.

Before deciding to change your fiscal year, be aware that the IRS requires businesses that don’t keep books and have no annual accounting period, as well as most sole proprietorships, to use a calendar year.

It can make a difference

If your company decides to change its tax year, you’ll need to obtain permission from the IRS. The change also will likely create a one-time “short tax year” — a tax year that’s less than 12 months. In this case, your income tax typically will be based on annualized income and expenses. But you might be able to use a relief procedure under Section 443(b)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code to reduce your tax bill.

Although choosing a tax year may seem like a minor administrative matter, it can have an impact on how and when a company pays taxes. We can help you determine whether a calendar or fiscal year makes more sense for your business.

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business owners looking at a piece of paper at at desk.  Delaware Accountant, Wilmington CPA

The federal income tax filing deadline for calendar-year partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) treated as partnerships or S corporations for tax purposes is March 15. While this deadline is nothing new for S corporation returns, it’s earlier than previous years for partnership returns. 

In addition to providing continued funding for federal transportation projects, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 changed the due dates for several types of tax and information returns, including partnership income tax returns. The revised due dates are generally effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015. In other words, they apply to the tax returns for 2016 that are due in 2017. 

The new deadlines

The new due date for partnerships with tax years ending on December 31 to file federal income tax returns is March 15. For partnerships with fiscal year ends, tax returns are due the 15th day of the third month after the close of the tax year. 

Under prior law, returns for calendar-year partnerships were due April 15. And returns for fiscal-year partnerships were due the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of the fiscal tax year.

One of the primary reasons for moving up the partnership filing deadline was to make it easier for owners to file their personal returns by the April 15 deadline (April 18 in 2017 because of a weekend and a Washington, D.C., holiday). After all, partnership (and S corporation) income flows through to the owners. The new date should allow owners to use the information contained in the partnership forms to file their personal returns.

Extension deadlines

If you haven’t filed your partnership or S corporation return yet, you may be thinking about an extension. Under the new law, the maximum extension for calendar-year partnerships is six months (until September 15). This is up from five months under prior law. So the extension deadline doesn’t change — only the length of the extension. The extension deadline for calendar-year S corporations also remains at September 15. But you must file for the extension by March 15.

Keep in mind that, to avoid potential interest and penalties, you still must (with a few exceptions) pay any tax due by the unextended deadline. There may not be any tax liability from the partnership or S corporation return. But if filing for an extension for the entity return causes you to also have to file an extension for your personal return, you need to keep this in mind related to the individual tax return April 18 deadline.

Filing for an extension can be tax-smart if you’re missing critical documents or you face unexpected life events that prevent you from devoting sufficient time to your return right now. Please contact us if you need help or have questions about the filing deadlines that apply to you or avoiding interest and penalties. 

 

 

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Business owners and managers spend most of their time monitoring operations and dealing with everyday problems. But just as an annual checkup from your physician helps to monitor and manage your personal health, an annual checkup can do the same for your business. The benefits of such a review are holding your company accountable and evaluating current performance to better plan and execute future operations. Here are seven things that you should make time to do every year. These are important for your longer-term business health and personal success.1. Review your business insurance coverage. Don't just automatically write a check to renew your insurance policies when they come due. Instead, you should sit down with your insurance agent every year. Review your business operations, focusing on any changes. Discuss types of risk that could arise. Ask about new developments in business insurance. Use your agent's expertise to identify risk areas and suggest suitable coverage.2. Review your business tax strategy. Consider adjusting taxable earnings for the year, perhaps by accelerating expenses or delaying income at year-end. (You may want to reverse that strategy this year if you think tax rates will actually increase in 2013.) If you're a cash-basis taxpayer, you could boost 2012 deductions by declaring and paying bonuses in December rather than in early January. Also, you may be able to defer invoicing or make early purchases to reduce your 2012 tax bill.Look into the "Section 179" rule that allows you to take an immediate tax deduction for most purchases of business furniture and equipment. By deducting the full cost immediately instead of depreciating it over several years, you'll cut this year's tax bill. For 2012, you can deduct up to $139,000 of qualifying purchases, subject to limits.As your business grows, it's always good to make sure you're using the most appropriate form of business -- whether it's sole proprietor, S or C corporation, LLC, or partnership.Look for other tax breaks, such as specialized tax credits, that you might not be using to full advantage.3. Survey your customers. An annual customer satisfaction survey is a great way to assess performance, obtain insight on potential new products or services, and to let your customers know how much you value their business.4. Check the effectiveness of your marketing. Are your current methods and channels working well, or are you simply doing what you've always done?5. Update succession planning for your business. Review your succession planning annually. You should have a specific plan for each key manager position, including yourself. Be prepared for a short-term absence or a permanent vacancy. Your plan might mean promoting from within or recruiting externally. An up-to-date plan can be invaluable if you have an unexpected vacancy.6. Review your business banking relationships. Annually, you should go over your cash balances and banking relationships with your controller, CFO, or accountant. Then both of you should meet with your banker. Ask about new products or services that could help your company. Address any service concerns or problems you might have had. Look for ways to reduce idle cash, boost interest earned, and improve cash flows.7. Review and update your personal estate planning. If you're a business owner, your company is likely to be a significant part of your estate. A good estate plan is essential if you hope to pass the business on to your heirs. Your company, your personal circumstances, and the tax laws are continually changing. You should take time each year to make sure your plans are current.If you are serious about improving your business, consider a yearly assessment of your operation. For any assistance you need, give us a call. 

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If you are operating your business as a partnership, you should have a written partnership agreement. This is true for family partnerships as well.The need for a partnership agreement can be summed up in two words: things change. You and your partner/s may agree about everything now, but disputes could arise later. Or one of you could die unexpectedly, leaving the survivor/s to deal with the deceased partner’s heirs.The basic provisions of a partnership agreement should include the parties to the agreement, the company name, purpose, location of the business, and the division of management responsibilities. The agreement should also indicate the following:* Initial capital contributions (or services in lieu of capital).* How and when additional capital contributions may be required.* How profits and losses will be shared.* How much of the profit is to be distributed and how much is to be left in the company for growth.Beyond the basics, the agreement should anticipate major events and spell out how to deal with them. For example, if one partner dies, what are the rights and obligations of the other partner/s? Under what circumstances can a partner leave, retire, or be expelled? What are the financial arrangements for departing partners? How long must an ex-partner wait before starting a competing business?A partnership agreement can't address every possible contingency, so consider an arbitration clause to handle disputes that you and your partner/s can't resolve on your own. Without such a clause, you may face a very expensive lawsuit to settle disputes.You and your business will benefit from a properly written partnership agreement. See your accountant and your attorney for assistance in getting it done right. Give us a call; we are here to help you.

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