• Dagley & Co’s Six Best Practices in Billings and Collections

    5 November 2015
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    Have a small business? One area where you can improve cash flow is in billings and collections. Getting paid late can often hurt a business, and there are ways to get paid faster so you can keep growing. Here are six best practices that can make a real difference in your cash balance at the end of every month.

    1. Get it right.

    One legitimate reason for nonpayment is a confusing or inaccurate invoice. Make sure your invoices spell out in clear, plain English what was purchased, the price, when payment is due, the customer’s PO number, when it was shipped, to where it was shipped, and any tracking number. We highly recommend QuickBooks for all of our clients for easy invoicing and payments.

    You may also want to tighten your sales process. Don’t start work without a formal PO from your business customers—many companies won’t pay against a verbal PO. When you receive a PO, make sure that it matches your quotation. Companies often put their payment terms on their paperwork, so if your customer tries to play this game, resolve any discrepancies before you start work.

    Finally, make certain every shipment and invoice is 100% correct. Set up processes to assure the customer gets exactly what was ordered and that invoices are equally accurate.

    2. Get it out.

    See that four-day-old pile of shipping papers waiting to be invoiced? That’s a pile of cash you can’t collect.

    Set a goal to issue all invoices within one working day of the ship date or completion of work. If your team struggles to meet this, give them the tools and/or manpower to make it happen. And if an invoice gets held up internally, make sure your supervision is immediately notified so the problem can be quickly resolved.

    To further speed payments, try to invoice your customers by email. Some won’t accept emailed invoices, but getting even a portion of your billing done electronically will help overall cash flow.

    3. Get it to the right person.

    How many times has one of your employees called about a past-due payment and been told “we didn’t receive your invoice” or “that needs to be approved by the department manager”? It’s another game, one that can take weeks to play out. As part of getting an accurate customer PO, make sure your sales staff gets a valid address for invoicing.

    Large sales deserve special attention. Where applicable, have your salesperson get the contact information for the customer employee that will approve payment. This might be a department or plant manager and maybe even the business owner. Also get the contact information for the customer’s finance-side people (accounting manager, accounts payable clerk), who will cut and approve the check. When your invoice goes out, make sure they all get a copy.

    4. Get it sooner.

    Offer a discount for early payment—for example, 2% off for payment within 10 days. Not all of your customers will take advantage of this, but it’s a great way to pull cash in.

    5. Get friendly.

    The best way to get paid on time is to build a positive working relationship with your customer before the money is due.

    Have your salesperson call his or her customer contacts shortly after the invoice goes out. Confirm the product has been received or affirm that your assignment is now complete. Ask them if they’re satisfied with your work, what you can do better to improve, and if they’ve received your invoice. This communicates (in a nice way) that it’s time to start the payment process. If these calls uncover problems, it’s an opportunity to address them on the spot as opposed to when payment is past due.

    Your employee responsible for collections should also make a call—in this case, to the customer’s finance-side people. Your employee should confirm the receipt of your invoice, remind them of any discounts for early payment, and check whether there are any administrative problems with the document. They should not ask for a payment date. If possible, they should also try to get to know their counterparts. A simple “How’s the weather where you are?” is a great opening that can lead to a long conversations about, well, everything. Your customer’s payables team can be your best friend later in the collections process, but it won’t happen if you have not built a working relationship.

    There’s one other person who needs to get friendly: you, the business owner or general manager. As your company develops large customers make sure you get to know your customer counterparts. A phone call from you asking “How’s my team doing?” is a great way to initiate a conversation and assure customer satisfaction. For very large projects, make a face-to-face visit. It will pay off later. If the time comes when a payment problem needs to be escalated, you will have an established relationship on which to call.

    6. Make it fun.

    Some companies take the “get friendly” notion to the next level. From putting silly “Thank You!” notes on their invoices, to handing out promotional swag, to sending little stuffed animals for on-time payment, it’s amazing how these goofy gimmicks can change the atmosphere around the collection process.

    You want your customer to smile and shake his head as he signs the check to pay your bill. And if the day comes when your customer needs to decide whom to pay and whom to put off, chances are he will pay you first.

    In Closing

    What about the actual collections process? Good companies contact their customers if a payment is more than five working days late. You should do the same.

    What’s different is that you’ve laid the foundation for a successful endgame. Any excuses for non-payment have been addressed. Your people know whom to call, and you have working contacts who will give you straight answers. Above all, you’ve strengthened the relationship with your customer and have built a basis for future business.

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  • November 2015 Business Due Dates

    1 November 2015
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    It’s hard to believe the end of 2015 is near! Before we list out the tax due dates for businesses, we want to take a moment to remind you to set up a meeting or a phone call with a member of our team at Dagley & Co. so you can get your 2015 taxes squared away. Still not convinced? Read our hundreds of testimonials, compiled by TurboTax from real clients over the last few years.

    November 2 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld

    Income Tax File Form 941 for the third quarter of 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. 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 November 10 to file the return.

    November 2 – Certain Small Employers

    Deposit any undeposited tax if your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2015, but less than $2,500 for the third quarter.

    November 2 – Federal Unemployment Tax

    Deposit the tax owed through September if more than $500.

    November 10 -Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

    File Form 941 for the third quarter of 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

    November 15 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October.

    November 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in October.

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  • October 2015 Tax Due Dates for Businesses

    5 October 2015
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    Last week, we covered the October 2015 tax due dates for individuals – and now we’re giving you the deadlines for businesses this month. Be sure to get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. if you need any of these deadlines clarified.

    October 15 – Electing Large Partnerships

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065-B). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 6-month extension. March 16 was the due date for furnishing Schedules K-1 or substitute Schedule K-1 to the partners.

    October 15 – Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

    October 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in September.

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  • The Risks Associated With A Sole Proprietorship

    22 September 2015
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    If you want to start a business, you’re probably about get down and dirty with the registration process. The simplest and least expensive form of business is a sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is a one-person business that reports its income directly on the individual’s personal tax return (Form 1040) using a Schedule C. There is no need to file a separate tax return as is required by a partnership or corporation (if the business is set up as an LLC with just one member, filing is still done on Schedule C, although an LLC return may also be required by the state). Generally, there are very few bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get started.

    However, we strongly recommend that you open a checking account that is used solely for depositing business income and paying business expenses. You will also need to check and see if there is a need to register for a local government business license and permit (if required for your business).

    If you are conducting a retail business, you will need to obtain a resale permit and collect and remit local and state sales taxes.

    If you hire employees, you will need to set up payroll withholding and remit payroll taxes to the government. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to apply to the IRS for an employer identification number (EIN) because you can’t just use your Social Security number for payroll tax purposes. An EIN can be obtained online at the IRS web site or by completing a paper Form SS-4 and submitting it to the IRS.

    As a sole proprietor, you can also very simply set aside tax-deductible contributions for your retirement.

    Example: Paul has been working for a computer firm as an installation specialist but has decided to go out on his own. Unless he sets up a partnership, LLC or corporation, Paul is automatically classified as a sole proprietor. He does not need to file any legal paperwork. His business is automatically classified and treated as a sole proprietorship in the eyes of the IRS and his state government.

    However, there is a big downside to conducting business as a sole proprietor, and that drawback is liability. Sole proprietors are 100% personally liable for all business debts and legal claims. As an example, in the case that a customer or vendor has an accident and is injured on your business property and then sues, you the owner are responsible for paying any resulting court award. Thus, all your assets, both business and personal, can be taken by a court order and sold to repay business debts and judgments.  That would include your car, home, bank accounts and other personal assets.

    Other forms of business, such as LLCs and corporations, can protect your personal assets from business liabilities. If you feel that your business is susceptible to lawsuits and would like to explore alternative forms of business, please give Dagley & Co. a call so we can discuss the tax ramifications of the various business entities with you. If you decide on something other than a sole proprietorship, you’ll need legal assistance to formally set up your new business.

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  • September 2015 Tax Due Dates For Business Owners

    2 September 2015
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    A few days ago, you probably read our post about September tax due dates for individuals. As promised, here are the tax due dates coming up this month for business owners. Please contact us at Dagley & Co. if you need a CPA to walk you through these steps and smooth out the process. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this webpage.

    September 15 – Corporations

    File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120 or 1120-A) and pay any tax, interest, and penalties due. This due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension.

    September 15 – S Corporations

    File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you requested an automatic 6-month extension.

    September 15 – Corporations

    Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2015 for calendar year corporations.

    September 15 – Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

    September 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

    September 15 – Partnerships 

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each partner with a copy of K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

    September 15 – Fiduciaries of Estates and Trusts

    File a 2014 calendar year return (Form 1041). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. If applicable, provide each beneficiary with a copy of K-1 (Form 1041) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

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  • September 2015 Tax Due Dates for Individuals

    31 August 2015
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    A fresh month means a new list of deadlines. Here are the upcoming tax due dates for individuals for September 2015. Check back later this week for September deadlines for businesses.

    September 1 – Tax Planning

    Tax season is around the corner! Contact Dagley & Co. to schedule a consultation appointment. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this screen.

    September 10 – Report Tips to Employer

    If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during August, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than September 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

    September 15 – Estimated Tax Payment Due
    The third installment of 2015 individual estimated taxes is due. The United States’ tax system is a “pay-as-you-go” system. To facilitate that concept, the government has provided several means of assisting taxpayers in meeting the “pay-as-you-go” requirement. These include:

    • Payroll withholding for employees;
    • Pension withholding for retirees; and
    • Estimated tax payments for self-employed individuals and those with other sources of income not covered by withholding.

    When a taxpayer fails to prepay a safe harbor (minimum) amount, they can be subject to the underpayment penalty. This penalty is equal to the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points, and the penalty is computed on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

    Federal tax law does provide ways to avoid the underpayment penalty. If the underpayment is less than $1,000 (the de minimis amount), no penalty is assessed. In addition, the law provides “safe harbor” prepayments. There are two safe harbors:

    • The first safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the current year. If your payments equal or exceed 90% of what is owed in the current year, you can escape a penalty.
    • The second safe harbor is based on the tax owed in the immediately preceding tax year. This safe harbor is generally 100% of the prior year’s tax liability. However, for taxpayers whose AGI exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for married taxpayers filing separately), the prior year’s safe harbor is 110%.

    Example: Suppose your tax for the year is $10,000 and your prepayments total $5,600. The result is that you owe an additional $4,400 on your tax return. To find out if you owe a penalty, see if you meet the first safe harbor exception. Since 90% of $10,000 is $9,000, your prepayments fell short of the mark. You can’t avoid the penalty under this exception.

    However, in the above example, the safe harbor may still apply. Assume your prior year’s tax was $5,000. Since you prepaid $5,600, which is greater than 110% of the prior year’s tax (110% = $5,500), you qualify for this safe harbor and can escape the penalty.

    This example underscores the importance of making sure your prepayments are adequate, especially if you have a large increase in income. This is common when there is a large gain from the sale of stocks, sale of property, when large bonuses are paid, when a taxpayer retires, etc. Timely payment of each required estimated tax installment is also a requirement to meet the safe harbor exception to the penalty. If you have questions regarding your safe harbor estimates, please call this office as soon as possible.

    CAUTION: Some state de minimis amounts and safe harbor estimate rules are different than those for the Federal estimates. Please contact Dagley & Co. for particular state safe harbor rules.

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  • Everything You Need To Know About Balance Sheets (And Why You Need Them)

    25 August 2015
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    Alright small business owner. Let’s talk about balance sheets.

    The best way for small business owners to stay aware of their company’s financial status is to have an accurate, up-to-date balance sheet. By keeping this information up to date every quarter, you can help yourself avoid a lot of problems and surprises down the road.

    A balance sheet provides you with an at-a-glance summary of your company’s financial health as of a specific day. It is broken down into what the business’s assets are, what the business’s liabilities are, and the amount of owner or shareholder equity. The balance sheet gets its name from the fact that the assets must be balanced by and equal to the liabilities plus the equity. Some business owners have found current balance sheets so helpful that they update them every month.

    Understanding the Asset Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering assets onto the balance sheet, the business owner needs to include everything that is owned by the business, whether current or liquid assets, fixed assets (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fixedasset.asp), or some other type of asset. Current or liquid assets include:

    • Cash that is immediately available
    • Money that is owed to you (Accounts Receivable)
    • Products currently in stock (Inventory)
    • Expenses paid in advance, such as insurance premiums
    • Money-market accounts, investments and other securities
    • Additional monies owed to you

    Fixed assets are items that can’t be easily sold or moved, including equipment and furnishings, buildings, land and vehicles. In most cases these assets depreciate, or decrease in value. Beyond current and fixed assets, items that are intangible, such as goodwill, copyrights and patents, are also considered assets on a balance sheet. It is important to note that money that is owed to you that you expect will not be paid is classified as a Reserve for Bad Debts, which decreases the amount of the Accounts Receivable on the balance sheet.

    Understanding the Liability Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering liabilities onto the balance sheet, the business owner needs to include all of the business’s debts, both current and long term. Current liabilities include accounts payable, sales and payroll taxes, payments on short-term business loans such as a line of credit, and income taxes. Long-term liabilities are those that are paid over a longer period of time, generally over more than a year. These include mortgages and leases, future employee benefits, deferred taxes and long-term loans.

    Understanding the Equity Portion of the Balance Sheet

    When entering information onto the equity portion of the balance sheet, you should include the value of any capital stock that has been issued, any additional payments or capital from investors beyond the par value of the stock, and the net income that has been kept by the business rather than distributed to owners and shareholders.

    In order to be sure that all of the information on the balance sheet is correct, you can double-check your numbers by subtracting assets from liabilities – the result should equal the equity amount. For more information on how to structure a balance sheet, check out this website: “http://www.accountingcoach.com/balance-sheet/explanation/4″>sample balance sheet</a>.

    The Value of a Balance Sheet

    At first glance a balance sheet may look like an incomprehensible collection of numbers, but once you understand all of the various components and how they relate to one another, they will provide you with the opportunity to detect trends and spot issues before they become problems. Your balance sheet can alert you to:

    • Times when inventory is outpacing revenue, thus alerting you to a need for better management of your inventory and production process
    • Cash flow problems and a shortage of cash reserves
    • Inadequacies in your cash reserves that are making it difficult to invest in continued growth
    • Problems with collecting accounts receivables

    The most essential tools that are available to you as a small business owner for gauging your operation’s financial health are the balance sheet, the income statement and the cash flow statement. If you are unsure of how to prepare these documents for yourself or don’t have the time, then let a qualified professional at Dagley & Co. take over and provide the information that you need.

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  • Small Business Owners: Remember To Plan For Your Retirement!

    10 August 2015
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    Though your retirement may be years away, and it may not be the most pressing issue on your mind these days, don’t forget your retirement contributions, especially because there are often some generous government incentives to take advantage of.

    There are a variety of retirement plans available to small businesses that allow the employer and employee a tax-favored way to save for retirement. Contributions made by the owner on his or her own behalf and for employees can be tax-deductible. Furthermore, the earnings on the contributions grow tax-free until the money is distributed from the plan. Here are some retirement plan options:

    • Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP). This plan was designed to avoid the complications of a qualified plan. Contributions to the plan are held in the beneficiaries’ IRA accounts; hence, the title “simplified.” Deductible contributions for 2015 are limited to the lesser of 25% of the participant’s compensation (up to $265,000) or $53,000. A SEP can be established and funded after the close of the year.
    • Qualified Plan (Keogh). Generally, the rules surrounding a Keogh are more complex. This type of plan may include a discretionary contribution profit sharing plan or a mandatory contribution money purchase plan, or a combination of these. SEP plans are favored over Keogh plans by most self-employed individuals. For 2015, deductible contributions are limited to the lesser of 25% of the participant’s compensation (up to $265,000) or $53,000. These plans must be established before the end of the tax year, but contributions can be made afterwards.
    • Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE Plan). Under this plan, the business owner takes a deduction, and employees receive a salary deferral. For 2015, the contribution limit is $12,500 (per employer or employee), with an additional catch-up contribution limit of $3,000 for participants aged 50 or older. The employer can match the contribution up to 3% of compensation or make a non-elective contribution of 2% of compensation.
    • Individual 401(k) Plan. The individual 401(k) plan is similar to the traditional 401(k) plan with added benefits for the small business owner. For 2015, the owner can contribute and deduct up to 25% of compensation plus an additional $18,000 salary deferral, up to a $53,000 maximum $59,000 for those who are age 50 and over). For employees, the contribution and salary deferral limit is $18,000, with an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution available to those aged 50 or over. Employers can match employee contributions.

    If you choose to establish a new qualified pension plan for your business, you may be entitled to the “small employer pension startup credit.” The credit is equal to 50% of administrative and retirement-related education expenses for the plan for each of the first three plan years, with a maximum credit of $500 for each year. Plan-related expenses in excess of the amount of the credit claimed are generally deductible as ordinary expenses of the business.

    The first credit year is the tax year that includes the date the plan becomes effective, or, electively, the preceding tax year. Examples of qualifying expenses include the costs related to changing the employer’s payroll system, consulting fees, and set-up fees for investment vehicles.

    If you would like assistance in selecting a retirement plan for your business or to explore all of the tax benefits relevant to your particular situation, please get in touch with Dagley & Co.

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  • Bunch Your Deductions For Big Tax Benefits

    6 August 2015
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    Have you heard of the “bunching” strategy for tax deductions? If your tax deductions normally fall short of itemizing your deductions, or even if you are able to itemize, but only marginally, you may benefit from using the “bunching” strategy.

    The tax code allows most taxpayers to utilize the standard deduction or itemize their deductions if that provides a greater benefit.  As a rule, most taxpayers just wait until tax time to add everything up and then use the higher of the standard deduction or their itemized deductions.

    If you want to be more proactive, you can time the payments of tax-deductible items to maximize your itemized deductions in one year and take the standard deduction in the next.

    For the most part, itemized deductions include medical expenses, property taxes, state and local income (or sales) taxes, home mortgage and investment interest, charitable deductions, unreimbursed job-related expenses, and casualty losses.  The “bunching strategy” is more commonly associated with medical expenses, tax payments and charitable deductions, although there are circumstances in which the other deductions might come into play.  There are many opportunities to bunch deductions, and the following are examples of the bunching strategies most commonly used:

    • Medical Expenses – You contract with a dentist for your child’s braces. The dentist may offer you an up-front, lump sum payment or a payment plan.  By making the lump sum payment, the entire cost is credited in the year paid, thereby dramatically increasing your medical expenses for that year.  If you do not have the cash available for the up-front payment, then you can pay by credit card, which is treated as a lump-sum payment for tax purposes.  If you use a credit card, you must realize that the credit card interest is not deductible, and you need to determine if incurring the interest is worth the increased tax deduction.  Another important issue with medical deductions is that only the amount of the total medical expenses that exceeds 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) is actually deductible. If you are 65 or over the medical deduction floor is 7.5% through 2016, unless you are caught by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Then only the amount that exceeds 10% of your AGI is actually deductible.  So, there is no tax benefit in bunching medical deductions unless the expenses exceed these limitations.

    If the current year is an abnormally high-income year, you may, where possible, wish to put off making medical expense payments until the subsequent year when the 10% (7.5% threshold is less.

    • Taxes – Property taxes on real estate are generally billed annually at mid-year, and most locales allow the tax bill to be paid in semi-annual or quarterly installments.  Thus, you have the option of paying it all at once or paying in installments.  This provides the opportunity to bunch the tax payments by paying one semi-annual installment or two quarterly installments and a full year’s tax liability in one year and only paying one semi-annual installment or two quarterly installments in the other year.  In doing so, you are able to deduct 1-½ year’s taxes in one year and 50% of a year’s taxes in the other. If you are thinking of making the property tax payments late as a way to accomplish bunching, you should be cautious.  The late payment penalty will probably wipe out any potential tax savings.

    If you reside in a state that has state income tax, the state income tax paid or withheld during the year is deductible as a federal itemized deduction.  So, for instance, if you are paying state estimated tax in quarterly installments, the fourth-quarter estimate is generally due in January of the subsequent year.  This gives you the opportunity to either make that payment before December 31st, and be able to deduct the payment on the current year’s return, or pay it in January before the January due date and use it as a deduction in the subsequent year.

    A word of caution about the itemized deduction for taxes!  Taxes are only deductible for regular tax purposes.  So, to the extent you are taxed by the AMT, you derive no benefits from the itemized deduction for taxes.

    • Charitable Contributions – Charitable contributions are a nice fit for “bunching” because they are entirely payable at the taxpayer’s discretion.  For example, if you normally tithe at your church, you could make your normal contributions during the year and then prepay the entire subsequent year’s tithing in a lump sum in December of the current year, thereby doubling up on the church contribution one year and having no charity deduction for church in the other year.  Normally, charities are very active with their solicitations during the holiday season, giving you the opportunity to make the contributions at the end of the current year or simply wait a short time and make them after the end of the year. Be sure you get a receipt or acknowledgment letter from the organization that clearly shows in which year the contribution was made.

    If you think a “bunching” strategy might benefit you, please call this office to discuss the issue and set up an appointment for some in-depth strategizing with Dagley & Co. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this webpage.

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  • August 2015 Tax Due Dates

    31 July 2015
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    A new month brings new tax due dates – but don’t stress. It’s August, and there aren’t too many you need to worry about, so we’ll quickly guide you through them below. Contact us at Dagley & Co. if you have any questions about these due dates.

    August 2015 Individual Due Dates

    August 10 – Report Tips to Employer

    If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during July, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than August 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

    August 2015 Business Due Dates

    August 10 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

    File Form 941 for the second quarter of 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

    August 17 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July.

    August 17 – Non-Payroll Withholding

    If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in July.

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