• Thinking of Tapping Your Retirement Savings? Read This First

    22 May 2017
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    Before you start tapping into your retirement savings, you may want to read this first:

    If you are under age 59½ and plan to withdraw money from a qualified retirement account, you will likely pay both income tax and a 10% early-distribution tax on any previously un-taxed money that you take out. Withdrawals you make from a SIMPLE IRA before age 59½ and those you make during the 2-year rollover restriction period after establishing the SIMPLE IRA may be subject to a 25% additional early-distribution tax instead of the normal 10%. The 2-year period is measured from the first day that contributions are deposited. These penalties are just what you’d pay on your federal return; your state may also charge an early-withdrawal penalty in addition to the regular state income tax.

    The following exceptions may help you avoid the penalty:

    • Withdrawals from any retirement plan to pay medical expenses—Amounts withdrawn to pay unreimbursed medical expenses are exempt from penalty if they would be deductible on Schedule A during the year and if they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income. This is true even if you do not
    • IRA withdrawals annuitized over your lifetime—To qualify, the withdrawals must continue unchanged for a minimum of 5 years, including after you reach age 59½.
    • Employer retirement plan withdrawals—To qualify, you must be separated from service and be age 55 or older in that year (the lower limit is age 50 for qualified public-service employees such as police officers and firefighters) or elect to receive the money in substantially equal periodic payments after your separation from service.
    • Withdrawals from any retirement plan as a result of a disability—You are considered disabled if you can furnish proof that you cannot perform any substantial gainful activities because of a physical or mental condition. A physician must certify your condition.
    • IRA withdrawals by unemployed individuals to pay medical insurance premiums—The amount that is exempt from penalty cannot be more than the amount you paid during the year for medical insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. You also must have received unemployment compensation for at least 12 weeks during the year.
    • IRA withdrawals to pay higher education expenses—Withdrawals made during the year for qualified higher education expenses for yourself, your spouse, or your children or grandchildren are exempt from the early-withdrawal penalty.
    • IRA withdrawals to buy, build, or rebuild a first home—Generally, you are considered a first-time homebuyer for this exception if you had no present interest in a main home during the 2-year period leading up to the date the home was acquired, and the distribution must be used to buy, build, or rebuild that home. If you are married, your spouse must also meet this no-ownership requirement. This exception applies only to the first $10,000 of withdrawals used for this purpose. If married, you and your spouse can each withdraw up to $10,000 penalty-free from your respective IRA accounts.

    You should be aware that the information provided above is an overview of the penalty exceptions and that conditions other than those listed above may need to be met before qualifying for a particular exception. You are encouraged to contact this office before tapping your retirement funds for uses other than retirement. Distributions are most often subject to both normal taxes and other penalties, which can take a significant bite out of the distribution. However, with carefully planned distributions, both the taxes and the penalties can be minimized. Please call Dagley & Co. for assistance.

     

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  • Uber and Lyft Drivers’ Tax Treatment

    6 April 2017
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    Do you drive for Uber or Lyft, or are thinking of getting into this business? We’ve outlined what it’s like to work for these types of companies, including taxes, expenses, and write-offs:

    Uber and Lyft treat drivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees. However, more than 70 pending lawsuits in federal court, plus an unknown number in the state courts, are challenging this independent contractor status. As the courts have not yet reached a decision on that dispute, this analysis does not address the potential employee/independent contractor issue related to rideshare divers; it only deals with the tax treatment of drivers who are independent contractors, using Uber as the example.

    How Uber Works – Each fare (customer) establishes an account with Uber using a credit card (CC), Paypal, or another method. The fare uses the Uber smartphone app to request a ride, and an Uber driver picks that person up and takes him or her to the destination. Generally, no money changes hands, as Uber charges the fare’s CC, deducts both its fee and the CC processing fee, and then deposits the net amount into the driver’s bank account.

    Income Reporting – Uber issues each driver a Form 1099-K reflecting the total amount charged for the driver’s fares. Because the IRS will treat the 1099-K as gross business income, it must be included on line 1 (gross income) of the driver’s Schedule C before adjusting for the CC and Uber service fees. Uber then deposits the net amount into the driver’s bank account, reflecting the fares minus the CC and Uber fees. Thus, the sum of the year’s deposits from Uber can be subtracted from the 1099-K amount, and the difference can be taken as an expense or as a cost of goods sold. Currently, a third party operates Uber’s billing, coordinates the drivers’ fares and issues the drivers’ 1099-Ks.

    Automobile Operating Expenses – Uber also provides an online statement to its drivers that details the miles driven with fares and the dollar amounts for both the fares and the bank deposits.

    Although the Uber statement mentioned above includes the miles driven for each fare, this figure only represents the miles between a fare’s pickup point and delivery point. It does not reflect the additional miles driven between fares. Drivers should maintain a mileage log to track their total miles and substantiate their business mileage.

    A driver can choose to use the actual-expense method or the optional mileage rate when determining operating expenses. However, the actual-expense method requires far more detailed recordkeeping, including records of both business and total miles and costs of fuel, insurance, repairs, etc. Drivers may find the standard mileage rate far less complicated because they only need to keep a contemporaneous record of business miles, the purposes of each trip and the total miles driven for the year. For 2017, the standard mileage rate is 53.5 cents per mile, down from 54.0 cents per mile in 2016.

    Whether using the actual-expense method or the standard mileage rate, the costs of tolls and airport fees are also deductible.

    When the actual-expense method is chosen in the first year that a vehicle is used for business, that method must be used for the duration of the vehicle’s business use. On the other hand, if the standard mileage rate is used in the first year, the owner can switch between the standard mileage rate and the actual-expense method each year (using straight-line deprecation).

    Business Use Of The Home – Because drivers conduct all of their business from their vehicle, and because Uber provides an online accounting of income (including Uber fees and CC charges), it would be extremely difficult to justify an expense claim for a home office. Some argue that the portion of the garage where the vehicle is parked could be claimed as a business use of the home. The falsity with that argument is that, to qualify as a home office, the space must be used exclusively for business; because it is virtually impossible to justify that a vehicle was used 100% of the time for business, this exclusive requirement cannot be met.

    Without a business use of the home deduction, the distance driven to pick up the first fare each day and the distance driven when returning home at the end of a shift are considered nondeductible commuting miles.

    Vehicle Write-off – The luxury auto rules limit the annual depreciation deduction, but regulations exempt from these rules any vehicle that a taxpayer uses directly in the trade or business of transporting persons or property for compensation or hire. As a result, a driver can take advantage of several options for writing off the cost of the vehicle. These include immediate expensing, the depreciation of 50% of the vehicle’s cost, normal deprecation or a combination of all three, allowing owner-operators to pick almost any amount of write-off to best suit their particular circumstances, provided that they use the actual-expense method for their vehicles.

    The options for immediate expensing and depreciating 50% of the cost are available only in the year when the vehicle is purchased and only if it is also put into business use during that year. If the vehicle was purchased in a year prior to the year that it is first used in the rideshare business, either the fair market value at that time or the original cost, whichever is lower, is depreciated over 5 years.

    Cash Tips – Here, care must be taken, as Uber does not permit fares to include tips in their CC charges but Lyft does. Any cash tips that drivers receive must be included in their Schedule C gross income.

    Deductions Other Than the Vehicle – Possible other deductions include:

    • Cell phone service
    • Liability insurance
    • Water for the fares

    Self-Employment Tax – Because the drivers are treated as self-employed individuals, they are also subject to the self-employment tax, which is the equivalent to payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare withholdings) for employees—except the rate is double because a self-employed individual must pay both the employer’s and the employee’s shares.

    If you are currently a driver for Uber or Lyft, or if you think that you may want to get into that business, and if you have questions about taxation in the rideshare industry and how it might affect your situation, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

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  • Avoid These 4 Common Small Business Accounting Mistakes

    8 September 2016
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    When you decided to open for business, you have a vision. You identified a need and came up with a solution you could provide and sell, and you invested your time, your money, your knowledge, and your drive to make it into a reality. The only problem is, if you’re like a lot of small business owners,  you did not anticipate having to handle your business’s accounting needs. Many highly intelligent, responsible business operators get caught making common small-business accounting mistakes that can trip them up and cost them in the long run. If you are afraid this might happen to you — or if it already has — the best way to avoid these costly errors, before time starts ticking and the money starts to pile up, is to learn the top four small-business accounting mistakes and how to prevent them.

    The Top 4 Accounting Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

     The truth is that these four mistakes are relatively easy to address. The best way to avoid them is to set aside time every week for the specific purpose of taking care of basic accounting tasks. Once you get into the habit of doing them regularly and the right way, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of having to go back and correct these mistakes in the future.

     Reporting Employees as Independent Contractors

    If you hire people to work for you, it’s important for you to understand the difference between employees and contractors, and to classify them correctly. There are very specific ways that you must account for each type of worker, and if you don’t get it right you will likely have to make corrections — and possibly pay penalties — in the future. If somebody is your employee, then you have control over when they work, how they get paid, and how they do their job. You are also responsible for withholding payroll tax on their behalf. By contrast, when you bring somebody in to do work for you as an independent contractor, they have more control over their own schedule, the work that they do, and how they get paid by you. They are responsible for their own taxes.

     Not Reconciling Bank Accounts Regularly

    Just as there are certain tasks that need to be done to keep your business running smoothly, there are certain accounting tasks that need to be addressed on a regular basis. Reconciling your bank accounts is one of those things. You need to make sure that every expense and every deposit is recorded in your books, and the best way to do that is to compare what you’ve written down to the statement that the bank provides. When you do this regularly, you are able to more immediately identify and address items that don’t match up so that you can correct any mistakes and take full advantage of available deductions. Far too often small business owners assume that this task is a waste of time and wait until the end of the year to do it. Not only is this much more time consuming, but it is harder to catch all mistakes and figure out what is missing when you have a full year’s worth of information to go through.

     Forgetting to Record Payments Against Open Invoices

    You receive a check in the mail or make a deposit into your bank account for an open invoice. If you don’t go back and check off the box showing that receivable as paid, your accounting data will be incorrect and incomplete. Get into the habit of immediately linking payments to their open invoices in order to avoid problems in the future.

     Not Understanding the Differences Between Cash Flow and Profit

    The money that comes in from your customers and the money that goes out as you make expenditures to operate your business represents cash flow. It’s important to have a positive cash flow, as that is a good indication that your company is healthy. It also means that you can pay your bills. But cash flow is not the same thing as profit. Profitability is a measure of whether you are making more from the sale of your service or product than you spend in bringing it to market. You may be profitable, but if the cash isn’t in hand then you can still have a negative cash flow. And people can pay you quickly so that you have cash on hand but you still may not be making a profit.

    The single best and easiest way to avoid these mistakes it is by taking advantage of all of the tools and functions that your accounting software package offers. Most accounting programs include powerful tools and how-to guides, but in many cases small business owners just invest in the packages without taking the time to learn all that they can do — or to learn it well. By taking a little time on the front end to go through the available tutorials, you’ll find that you’ll save yourself both time and trouble on the back end. Our best advice is to set aside time one day of the week, first to learn the software and then, going forward, to go through that week’s records. Set aside the same time slot each week as if it is a meeting or appointment. It’s a good habit to get into.

    If you are struggling to learn your software, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Dagley and Co. at (202) 417-6640 for tips and training. Once you learn what you’re doing, make sure that you include backing up your files!

     

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